Shelf Control #327: The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: The Red Magician
Author: Lisa Goldstein
Published: 1982
Length: 192 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Winner of the 1983 American Book Award, The Red Magician was an immediate classic.

On the eve of World War II, a wandering magician comes to a small Hungarian village prophesying death and destruction. Eleven-year-old Kicsi believes Vörös, and attempts to aid him in protecting the village.

But the local rabbi, who possesses magical powers, insists that the village is safe, and frustrates Vörös’s attempts to transport them all to safety. Then the Nazis come and the world changes.

Miraculously, Kicsi survives the horrors of the concentration camp and returns to her village to witness the final climactic battle between the rabbi and the Red Magician, the Old World and the New.

The Red Magician is a notable work of Holocaust literature and a distinguished work of fiction, as well as a marvelously entertaining fantasy that is, in the end, wise and transcendent.

How and when I got it:

I’ve had a paperback edition on my shelves for years and years, and I honestly don’t remember when or where I got it… but there’s a good chance I picked it up at a library sale at some point.

Why I want to read it:

I really wonder if I knew that this was Holocaust-related fiction when I picked up a copy, or if I just expected magic-based fantasy. In any case, the synopsis is really intriguing.

I’m always cautious when it comes to fiction set during the Holocaust, because if not done well, it can feel manipulative or even exploitative. I’m very curious to see how this fantasy story plays out, and I’m also pretty surprised that a book with this combination of real world horror and fantastical elements ended up winning the National Book Award!

I’ve read one book by this author (Ivory Apples), and have one other on my shelves that was among my very first handful of Shelf Control books (The Uncertain Places). I’d definitely like to read at least the two books I own, and I’d certainly be open to exploring more of her work.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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Have fun!

7 thoughts on “Shelf Control #327: The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein

  1. Library sales can be dangerous! I always end up with a bunch of books that I later wonder why I bought. ;D I probably wouldn’t read this one; it doesn’t sound like one I would like.

  2. Traditional Jewish folklore is prominent, with the myth of the Wandering Jew and the legend of the Golem woven into the narrative. The format of the story is a familiar fantasy: the battle between two powerful wizards. But, while crafting a fairy tale; the story deals with historical horrors with a delicate yet moving touch.

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