Picks and Pans Review: The Cannibal Galaxy

updated 10/17/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Cynthia Ozick

In this splendid novel, a brilliant young French Jew is saved during World War II by nuns who give him sanctuary in their convent. After months of hiding, he gets the idea that, if he escapes, he will teach a "dual curriculum—one-half concentrating on the Treasures of Western Culture, the other half given over...to the priceless Legacy of Scripture and Commentaries." After the war he establishes a school in America and the years flow by. His students are the children of wealthy professional men, and he hopes that one day he will find a genius among them. When a well-known philosopher wants to enroll her daughter in his school, he accepts the child, even though she seems a dullard, because of his respect for the mother. At 60, the principal finally marries and fathers a child of his own, but he is haunted by what he fears is the failure of his whole life. The school and all it stands for becomes a mockery when he discovers to his amazement that the philosopher's girl, the poorest student his school ever had, has become a brilliant artist, highly visible on TV shows. Ozick is an original writer, and she compresses a whole lifetime of events, ideas and dreams into this absorbing book. (Knopf, $11.95)

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