A painfully funny parable of loneliness, alienation, and crippling guilt by the ÇmigrÇ author of, among others, Soviet Civilization (1990) and the novel Goodnight! (1989). Tertz's dwarflike, woefully underqualified hero, Andrei Sinyavsky, shares his name with his pseudonymous creator—and that's about all he shares with anybody, from the moment he ``waived my right to goodness, fame, and fortune'' so that magical pediatrician Dora Aleksandrovna could cure his childish stutter. Once his tongue is loosed, little Sinyavsky, free to talk normally, launches into a profoundly third-rate career as a compulsive hack writer whose tale of how he played an accidental part in the deaths of all five of his older brothers—one drowned trying to save the fiancÇe who was trying to save Little Jinx; another got denounced and imprisoned for his anti-Stalinist response to his brother's enthusiastic burbling (``You really have a nook of the future here. It's a veritable Thomas More's Utopia!''), and so on—is peppered with reminiscences of his early successes (``Why We Like Ilya Isakovsky''), examples of poems that taught him ``a lot about life'' (`` `And so, she was called Tatiana'- -How beautifully expressed!''), and stunningly irrelevant aphorisms (``I think that automobiles are basically responsible for the current decline in the arts''), all faithfully rendered into fractured English by the resourceful translators. Spurned by another Dora who upbraids him for letting her get away, driven away by his grieving mother, bitten by the dog he's delivered of six puppies, Little Jinx finds comfort only when he identifies a well-upholstered store clerk as a new incarnation of Dora Aleksandrovna, who disappears after leaving him with a walnut chest presenting tantalizingly contradictory visions of his dead brothers' testimonials at his own wake. Gentler in its satire than the stories and essays that got Tertz five years in a Soviet labor camp: as winsomely, tearfully loony as the Gogol tales it recalls.
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