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‘Cynics’ by Anatoly Mariengof

It’s a novel about the early days of the Russian Revolution, the civil war and the famine that ravaged the Soviet Union. The extremes of hunger and poverty are set off against the high living and obscene wealth of those taking advantage of the Soviet government’s New Economic Policy. A story of love and betrayal […]

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VIVO: The Life of Gustav Meyrink

Prague German Writers – Gustav Meyrink He was twenty-three years old and living alone in Prague. A wounded heart caused him to look at his life up to that point as shallow and empty. Gustav Meyrink had just put a farewell letter to his mother in an envelope and reached for his revolver, when he […]

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The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov

My review of Paul Russell’s novel The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov is up at Readux. For a take on a fictional account of the life of Vladimir’s gay younger brother who ended up dying in a concentration camp and who wasn’t mentioned by the famous novelist until the third edition of Speak, Memory, as […]

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Madame Mephisto by A. M. Bakalar

For many people the idea that we invent ourselves is, at the very least, an uncomfortable truth, while for others it is nothing less than blasphemy, a dirty secret to be warded off by waving crosses and national flags. We are where we come from, they say, formed by the way our parents raised us […]

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What the Emperor Cannot Do: Tales and Legends of the Orient by Vlas Doroshevich

Russian writer and journalist Vlas Doroshevich is not the only writer of parablelike stories exploring issues of justice and power who died in the 1920’s and whose work seems to illuminate the much darker period of history that followed his death, when the liquid that smoothed the grinding wheels of bureaucracy was revealed to be […]

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Phantom Countries – On the Road to Babadag by Andrzej Stasiuk

My review of Andrzej Stasiuk’s On the Road to Babadag in the summer issue of The Cerise Press. “They lived in the old Jewish quarter, at the edge of a Slovak town, at the foot of a Hungarian castle, so in order to exist and not disappear, they had to create their own rules, their […]

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Best European Fiction 2012 – Part III – Death in Sicily

Clowns, volcanoes, love, jealousy, grief, birds and disease are the elements that make up Janusz Rudnicki’s haunting short story The beginning of Dante’s Divine Comedy sees the poet “halfway along life’s path” at 35 years old and lost in a dark wood. The beginning of “The Sorrows of Idiot Augustus” by Poland’s Janusz Rudnicki finds […]

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Best European Fiction 2012 – Part II – novels in miniature

The two stories in BEF 2012 that stood out the most for me were Czech writer Jiří Kratochvil’s “I Loshad’” and “The Sorrows of Idiot Augustus” by Polish writer Janusz Rudnicki. The excellence of these two stories shouldn’t be all that surprising. For while these and other Dalkey anthologies try to give exposure to young […]

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Best European Fiction 2012 – Part I – the dead white noise of space

I should admit from the outset that I haven’t always liked the short story form. When I first began reading with any dedication I had the impression that novels conjured entire worlds while short stories were content with slices of life. What’s more, the slice-of-life sensibility appeals so directly to verisimilitude that a story about […]

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Jan Karski’s ‘Story of a Secret State’

Jan Karski’s wartime memoir and account of Nazi atrocities is a reading experience as exciting as it is horrifying On April 23, 2012 US President Barack Obama announced that he would award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest honor, to Polish Resistance fighter Jan Karski. Earlier this year in Poland the parliament announced […]

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