A Curable Romantic

Written by Joseph Skibell
Review by Jeanne Greene

A Curable Romantic follows Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn, seeker, intellectual, lover, as he wanders Europe trailing the ghost of Jewish history. In 1895 Vienna, Jakob meets Sigmund Freud and his patient Emma, who begins channeling Jakob’s dead wife Ita. Ghosts (angels?) appear. Psychoanalysis fails. Will Jakob be haunted forever? Or is it love that follows him? In this fantasy, he looks for Ita everywhere.

Jakob abandons Freud to join the movement for a new language, Esperanto. But while chasing a simulacrum of Ita, Jakob fails to cast an important vote; and the movement splinters. Jakob loses his academic reputation, his second wife, and his optimism. Having witnessed “excellent men devouring themselves in the service of a benevolent idea,” even war does not surprise him. Jakob is drafted, captured, escapes; he leaves Vienna for the ghetto in Warsaw.

Years pass. Jakob reaches the one-way train, he lands upon the carnal heap, and is rescued by a woman who may be Ita. Because Jacob once expressed a simple love for Ita, the angels tell him, she made a bargain—to do whatever Heaven commanded in return for Jakob’s life. He is set free on the path to Palestine, where he can live in peace as a Jew. But the farther Jakob gets from the ghetto, the more he looks to the future, and the harder it is to believe in the past.

Those familiar with Jewish culture may better appreciate some of its intricacies, but that should deter no one from reading this fine novel. The plot is intelligent and the characters, memorable. A Curable Romantic is recommended to anyone interested in the troubled history of Europe in the 20th century.