Books: Birth Pangs

THE KING OF THE FIELDS

Written and Translated by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Farrar Straus & Giroux 244 pages; $18.95

At age 84, Isaac Bashevis Singer continues to astonish. The King of the Fields is his second book of 1988. (The Death of Methuselah, a collection of stories, was published in April.) And this new novel, his first in five years, radically departs from nearly all his previous fiction. This time out, the setting is not a remote Polish village, the streets and cafes of Warsaw, or the expatriate haunts of Manhattan. "The story begins -- when?" This opening sentence is the...

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