Picks and Pans Review: The Centaur in the Garden

updated 05/13/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/13/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Moacyr Scliar

Guedali Tartakovsky is born on a farm in a remote area of Brazil. His father and mother are Jewish refugees from Russia. Though his older brother and two sisters are perfectly normal, Guedali has the body of a horse. The initial shock to his family is great, but once they begin to recover, they decide to keep him but to hide him away from the world. This novel is the story of his strange life. When a neighbor discovers Guedali's existence, the family moves to the outskirts of a city where the centaur has a garden in which to run. He takes correspondence courses because he is restless and smart. All the while he gnaws at one all-consuming concern, explaining himself: "Psychoanalysis, dialectic materialism, nothing; laws of supply and demand, nothing, nothing; fiction, nothing. Nothing seemed applicable to my case. I was a centaur, irremediably a centaur. And without any plausible explanation." The author, who is a doctor in Brazil, has written nine other novels. His fictional world is original and imaginative. Perhaps the most unusual quality of this appealing novel, translated unobtrusively by Margaret A. Neves, is Scliar's sly, pervasive sense of humor. The Centaur in the Garden is delightful and full of insights. (Available Press, paper, $5.95)

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