Cover image for The illuminated soul
The illuminated soul
Stollman, Aryeh Lev.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 2002.
Physical Description:
274 pages ; 22 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Eva Laquedem, a scientist who has fled Prague at the outbreak of World War II, settled briefly in Japan, and then traveled rootlessly like the legendary Wandering Jew, arrives, by accident, in Windsor, Canada, at the home of a devout widow and her two sons. Within her purse she carries the renowned Augsburg Miscellany, a magnificent fifteenth-century illuminated Hebrew manuscript, for which she has risked her life. Eva's physical beauty, the dazzling tales she tells, and, above all, the magnificent Augsburg Miscellany powerfully affect Adele and her sons, giving them a new experience of the world and its possibilities. Aryeh Lev Stollman's first book, The Far Euphrates, was hailed as "radiant" and "remarkable" by The New York Times Book Review; New York Newsdaydescribed it as "kin to the fiction of the late, great Bernard Malamud"; and The Forward declared that the novel "lifts the level of recent American-Jewish writing to a new plane." Now, in his long-awaited second novel, he illuminates the themes he touched on in The Far Euphratesand once again magically expands our sense of the everyday and the limits of our imaginations.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Neuroradiologist Stollman's first novel, The Far Euphrates (1997), earned a string of awards, and his second is similarly seductive in its fairy-tale-like transmutation of the sorrows of the Holocaust. Like the author, Joseph hails from Windsor, Ontario, is fascinated by the human brain, and has written a book, but most of this sweet and fanciful tale takes place during his childhood just after his father's death and the end of World War II. Joseph studies the Torah, his younger brother worries about his deteriorating eyesight, and their resourceful mother starts a catering business. Suddenly the proverbial stranger comes to town, Eva Higashi, the stunning refugee daughter of a renowned Jewish Czech scholar and widow of a Japanese doctor. A magical being in possession of a sacred illuminated manuscript, she brings renewed life and mystery to Joseph and his struggling family. As Eva's sad yet enchanting story unfolds, Stollman intertwines fantasy with musings on the cherished belief in a "unifying pattern" underlying the harsh arbitrariness of existence and promising order, connection, and meaning. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Stollman's second novel, after his lauded debut, The Far Euphrates, is another thoughtful, resonant examination of Jewish life in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Now a famous neuroanatomist, Dr. Joseph Ivri reflects on his life and career. Raised in a devout Jewish household in placid, post-WWII Ontario, Joseph is obsessively studious, somber and a bit of a religious prodigy. Several painful events have contributed to his serious view of the world: his father's illness and death, the institutionalization of his best friend and the diminishing eyesight of his younger brother, Asa. A welcome addition to the household when Joseph is 14 is boarder Eva Laquedem Higashi, a beautiful, sagelike refugee from Prague via Shanghai, who is the very embodiment of the dislocated life many European Jews faced even after the Allies' victory. Eva brings with her a most precious possession: a rare 15th-century Hebrew manuscript, the Augsburg Miscellany, smuggled out of Europe at great risk and at tragic cost. The manuscript's implications prove a suspenseful factor, as its history is gradually revealed. While the book's leisurely pace and religious allusions may limit its audience, discerning readers will be intrigued by its quiet mysticism. Stollman's measured prose harbors its share of idiosyncratic nuggets, including liberal doses of Japanese folklore and an appearance by Hannah Arendt. Yet the narrative gains cohesion from Joseph's encompassing intelligence, and his world both provincial and worldly is evoked with delicate accuracy. A practicing neuroradiologist, Stollman illuminates the mysteries of life with the clear eye of a scientist and the faith of a believer. Rights sold in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. (Feb. 18) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this rich effort, Stollman returns to the setting of his first novel, The Far Euphrates. Another Jewish family, this time the Ivris (a widowed mother and her two sons, teenaged Joseph and ten-year-old Asa), lives an unremarkable life in Windsor, Ontario, in the late 1940s. Things change, however, when a stranger rents a room from the Ivris. The drifter, Eva Laquedem, fled Prague at the outbreak of World War II and has been on the move ever since. She has in her possession an illuminated 15th-century Hebrew manuscript known as the Augsburg Miscellany, which her family has owned for centuries and for which she has risked her life, having smuggled it out of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Narrated by the adult Joseph, now an accomplished neuroanatomist, the story depicts Eva as a beautiful muse who left as suddenly as she came. The richness of Torah study, the ancient languages of the Near East, and the opening up of one's soul are some of the gifts that the mysterious boarder bestows on the Ivris and the reader. Stollman's first novel was an American Library Association Notable Book, and this tale of people searching for family values is sure to have similar success. Highly recommended for all libraries and for teen readers as well. Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.