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The Fertile Plain, by Esther Salaman

- Abstract

The Fertile Plain is the record of the life of a girl who has among her earliest memories the sight of a revolutionary fleeing past her window:

“I can see her now: she ran as if the top of her body wanted to leave the legs behind. Then came a thin woman, and she ducked her head. And now I saw that the men who were running after them were hurling large stones at them, and I knew why they were afraid. . . .

“A stout young man was running along the side of the road; his Russian shirt was blown out, as if the wind had got inside and could not get out. . . .

”‘A student. Oh God, his glasses are coming off!’ mother cried out behind me.”

What strikes one immediately is the simplicity and directness of the eye of the author: the truth of this writing is the vividness with which things are seen. But the virtues of the book are of a piece—the modesty of the total intention seems inseparable from that directness of sight; if the tone rarely falters, if it is rare that shyness or embarrassment comes between the author and what she has to report, one feels that this is because of the balance in her mind between the kind of book she is capable of writing and the kind she wants to write.

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