The University of Wisconsin Press

Fiction / Jewish Interest


Ladies and Gentlemen, the Original Music of the Hebrew Alphabet and Weekend in Mustara
Two Novellas
Curt Leviant

Library of American Fiction

"I read [Leviant's] The Yemenite Girl straight through without a stop. . . . I enjoyed every turn of the story."—Saul Bellow

Filled with Curt Leviant's signature blend of humor and drama, these two enchanting and original novellas lure readers into a dazzling storybook world.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the Original Music of the Hebrew Alphabet" is set in Budapest during the Communist era. The story focuses on the tenuous seesaw between Dr. Isaac Gantz, a musicologist, and engineer Ferdinand Friedman, a Holocaust survivor who believes that he possesses one of the greatest manuscripts of the ages, a Rosetta Stone of Judaica. Friedman is willing to share it—but there is a "but." In pursuing this prize, Gantz enters a world of strange human relationships filled with doubts and surprises. A vibrant cast of characters adds dimension to this gripping story in which Jewish folklore, music, and history coalesce.

"Weekend in Mustara" unfolds on the fictional island of Mustara in southern Europe, a mountainous, totalitarian country that tolerates Judaism. Its few Jews cling to their heritage, embodied in their beautiful but sparsely attended synagogue and their museum, where a great memorial book is inscribed with the names of all Mustara Jews martyred during World War II. A scholar of medieval Hebrew manuscripts comes to the island, searching for traces of Yehuda Halevi, the great Hebrew poet of the Spanish Golden Age. He is soon enmeshed among elusive personalities and tangled loyalties, but only when he finds himself displaced in time—in a kind of theater of the absurd—are the purposes of his journey finally realized.

Curt Leviant is the author of five critically acclaimed novels including Diary of an Adulterous Woman, Partita in Venice, The Man Who Thought He Was Messiah, Passion in the Desert, and The Yemenite Girl. He has won the Wallant Award, an O. Henry Prize, and several national and international literary fellowships for his work.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Original Music of the Hebrew Alphabet and Weekend in Mustara, cover.

September 2002

127 pp.   6 x 9

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