Cover image for Refiner's fire : the life and adventures of Marshall Pearl, a foundling
Refiner's fire : the life and adventures of Marshall Pearl, a foundling
Helprin, Mark.
Personal Author:
First Harvest/HBJ edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990.

Physical Description:
373 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Marshall Pearl is orphaned at birth on an immigrant ship off the coast of Palestine in 1947, then brought to americanca. His experiences take him from the Hudson River Valley, to Harvard, to sea on a British merchant ship, then finally back to his birthplace, where he serves as an Israeli soldier in the Yom Kippur War. "Superb...A first-rate odyssey, full of insight and humor and hard-earned truths" (San Francisco Chronicle).

Author Notes

Mark Helprin was born in Manhattan, New York on June 28, 1947. He received degrees from Harvard College and Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and did postgraduate work at the University of Oxford, Princeton University, and Columbia University. He has served in the British Merchant Navy, the Israeli infantry, and the Israeli Air Force.

He is the author of numerous novels including Refiner's Fire, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir from Antproof Case, Freddy and Fredericka, and In Sunlight and In Shadow. Winter's Tale was adapted into a movie in 2014. His short story collection, Ellis Island and Other Stories, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1981. His other short story collections include A Dove of the East and Other Stories and The Pacific and Other Stories. He also writes children's books including Swan Lake, A City in Winter, and The Veil of Snows. He has received several awards including the National Jewish Book Award, the Prix de Rome, the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award in 2006, and the Salvatori Prize in the American Founding in 2010.

(Bowker Author Biography)



RIDING IN a new 1938 Ford through the March countryside of North Carolina, Paul Levy was astonished by the tranquillity and depth of the blue above. Every tree and field was sheathed in gentle, clear, warm light. Smoke from clearing fires rose straight and slow, and the speed and air were perfect as the car wound through the back roads, sounding like a perpetual chain of little firecrackers. He was sixteen, the son of a Norfolk ship provisioner, and in love with the Navy and its ships. His father saw them as delivery points for canned tomatoes and brass polish, but his father's son was struck as if by lightning at the sight of one steaming up the roads, bent forward, pressing on-a squinting bridge, high black masts and angled guns, smoke, wake, urgency, and water pulsing off the bows. And when they turned, with claxons and bells, and the stern seeming to sweep like a skater over mottled ice, he saw in them the history for which his tranquil boyhood had been created. And in the North Carolina countryside, joyriding in his father's car solo for the first time, he could not help glancing through the windows at the sky and thinking of the sea.By darkness when he returned to Norfolk he had decided to join the Navy, which, after a year or so of arguments and heated wanderings in and out of the dance places at Virginia Beach, he did. At first he went to sea as almost a child, and the little experience he had he used badly, awkwardly, making more mistakes than he could count. But at nineteen he was an ensign in the Battle of the Atlantic. He used to come home every few months or weeks, and each time he was more solid, stronger, wiser. Being on the sea was miserable, especially in winter, and it wore him down. But it developed into his calling and during the war he had been off Africa, Normandy, and Japan. Because he learned fast and loved the sea he became a lieutenant-commander by the end of 1946, taking a year's leave of absence to rest and prepare: he intended upon a career in the Navy, but did not want to be entirely brought up in it. He thought that a year of peace-maybe some farming, a trip across the country to San Francisco, a month at home-would do it. His father had become prosperous, especially since the fleet had not been decimated and would not be dismantled as had been the custom after other wars. They lived in a big house and it was planned that the younger sister and brother would go to college.Paul, though, was lost to the Navy; he was an officer with Southern ways and a fighting man's demeanor. They were proud of him, but having left early and against their wishes, he was not very much like them. He had forgotten his Jewishness, almost lost it in the rush and conviviality of war. No one knew he was a Jew if they didn't know his name. Even when he said his name, everyone did not immediately know his origins, since he pronounced Levy like the tax, or the embankment which holds back a river. He was by appearance and dialect a Virginia Excerpted from Refiner's Fire by Mark Helprin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Transportation of the Woundedp. 1
i A Coast of Palmsp. 11
ii The Hudsonp. 69
iii Columbinep. 115
iv High Viewp. 139
v Yorkvillep. 205
vi A Lake in Augustp. 227
vii A Memory of the Plainsp. 261
viii The Sea and the Alpsp. 349
ix Settlement of the Dovep. 383
x Refiner's Firep. 415
Morning at Hospital 10p. 537