A collection of eight long stories that their Russian-born author describes (in a thoughtful Afterword) as ""a kind of...



A collection of eight long stories that their Russian-born author describes (in a thoughtful Afterword) as ""a kind of travelogue"" tracing the troubled peregrinations of a ""minor samizdat author"" for whom exile comprises a rueful adult education. Zinik (The Mushroom Picker, 1989) is, for all practical purposes, identical with the stories' protagonist, Zinovy, whom we encounter in various European and North African locations as well as in London, the place to which he seems most inclined to keep returning. He encounters other ‚migr‚s who make unwelcome political and personal claims on him (in ""Mea Culpa,"" ""An Uninvited Guest,"" and ""A Chance Encounter,"" for example), or new acquaintances whose response to his outwardly romantic outsider's status (""my Russian past and dual British-Israeli citizenship"") takes frustratingly unpredictable forms--for example, in the loosely knit ""Cricket,"" in which Zinovy is befriended by a British book editor, insulted by a drunken xenophobic snob, and taken in tow by a disturbed woman whose appropriation of him is motivated by her own outcast state. Too many of these stories feel like unimaginative transcriptions of personal experience; they're journalistic in tone and texture, failing to develop satisfyingly beyond their premises. Two, however, stand out: ""A Ticket to Spare,"" in which Zinovy attends a Duke Ellington concert at Kiev Stadium and experiences thereafter a sobering corrective to his enjoyment of the ""freedom"" latent in the great jazzman's performance; and--much the best story in the book--""The Face of the Age,"" a complex reminiscence of Zinovy's childhood in Russia, shaped by a Jewish family's uncertain security under the cloak of Soviet solidarity and shadowed by intimations of his elders' political recklessness and subsequent vulnerability. But, on balance, these ruminative and muted stories, only occasionally involving, seem too internalized to fully communicate their weight of emotion and reach through to the reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 1996

ISBN: 0811217922

Page Count: 192

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996