For every taste and budget, a paperback

The Testament, by Elie Wiesel. New York: Bantam Books. 261 pp. $3.95.

This novel, which ends in laughter, begins in tears. But both the tears and laughter are rituals for survival in this transfixing account of our world in this century.

The central character is a Jewish-born Russian poet, Paltiel Kossover, but he is also in a profound way Everyman. Exposed to all the seizures of the last 50 years, he is an innocent, an idealist with a persistent faith that reason can somehow prevail over madness and that the God of his fathers can ride out the storm.

Lacing time together in such a way that continuity is not important, the book hauntingly recounts Kossover's life and his journey from devout communism in his youth to devout Judaism -- and imprisonment by Stalin's minions - in his maturity. Wiesel offers a fervent and eloquent account of the moral journeys endemic to our times.

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