The Soviet ghost, the hidden one and a lucky escape: new magazines

The Fall 2011 issue of The Virginia Quarterly Review is out and devoted to the former USSR. There is an excellent selection of essays, fiction and poetry some of which is available online. There is too much good stuff to single out anything, but a couple pieces worth noting are Jason Motlagh’s essay “Dark Days in Belarus” and Dimiter Kenarov’s terrifying and hilarious account of ending up in a Belarusian jail over a love of tractors “A Threat to Public Order.”

Without leaving the Soviet Union, Tablet Magazine has an essay on the Yiddish writer Der Nister (“The Hidden One”), whose wartime short stories were recently published as Regrowth: Seven Tales of Jewish Life Before, During, and After Nazi Occupation in a translation by Erik Butler.

Full Stop magazine has a brilliant interview series on The Situation in American Writing. And though it doesn’t really fit in the Central and Eastern European Literature category – unless you count today’s interviewee, Russian-born and once upon a time briefly Prague resident novelist Gary Shteyngart – I think it’s worth pointing your attention to.

I get the sense that in updating a 1939 Partisan Review questionnaire to writers Full Stop was hoping for something more political, something that tied in with the Occupy Wall Street momentum. I couldn’t help noticing that their Facebook link to an interview with George Saunders used the single political sounding phrase in his entire interview, which otherwise went more along these lines: “No.  I don’t think literature has any responsibilities at all.”

And an aside about Gary Shteyngart for anyone who has read The Russian Debutante’s Handbook. There was a Prague expat reading he mercilessly parodied in the novel. I recognized the story he mocked, realized I was there and to this day am thankful that I hadn’t written anything I could have read then, because if I had I have no doubt he would have chosen me to parody and I would be sitting on a park bench somewhere with a copy of his book clutched in my shaking hands, staring off into the distance. Good thing I was so lazy back then.

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Categories: Magazines


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  1. Literary roundup: Putting Jewish history online and Hungarian literature into English | literalab - 03/03/2012

    […] camp survivors with an orchestra consisting of their fellow survivors and one of Marc Chagall and Der Nister among other teachers at a Moscow school-camp for Jewish refugees (see photo, Chagall is in front […]

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