Kalfus plucks individual lives from the stew of a century of Russian history and serves them up in tales that range from hair-raising to comic to fabulous. The astonishing title story follows a doomed nuclear power plant worker as he hawks a most unusual package on the black market -- a canister of weapons-grade plutonium. In "Orbit," the first ...
Kalfus plucks individual lives from the stew of a century of Russian history and serves them up in tales that range from hair-raising to comic to fabulous. The astonishing title story follows a doomed nuclear power plant worker as he hawks a most unusual package on the black market -- a canister of weapons-grade plutonium. In "Orbit," the first cosmonaut navigates several items not on the preflight checklist as he prepares to blaze the trail for the new communist society, "floating free of terrestrial compromise." In "Budyonnovsk," a young man hopes desperately that the takeover of his town by Chechen rebels will somehow save his marriage. Set in the 1920s, "Birobidzhan" is the bittersweet story of a Jewish couple journeying to the Soviet Far East, where they intend to establish the modern world's first Jewish state. The novella, "Peredelkino," which closes the book, traces the fortunes of a 1960s literary apparatchik whose romantic intrigues inadvertently become political. Together, these works of fiction capture the famously enigmatic Russian psyche. They display Kalfus' ability to imagine a variety of believable yet wholly singular characters whose lives percolate against a backdrop of momentous events.
Publishers Weekly, 1999-07-12 These five short stories and one novella demonstrate Kalfus's sense of the absurd, and his marvelous knowledge of modern Russia. The jewel of this collection is its eponymous first story. Timofey, a nuclear engineer, absorbs a toxic amount of radiation in an accident at his workplace, an obsolete provincial nuclear weapons facility. Hoping to leave his family some money after his death, Timofey steals some plutonium and takes it to Moscow, planning to sell it on the black market. But Yeltsin-era Moscow perplexes him absolutely. He makes the mistake of trusting Shiv, a small-time hoodlum who knows no physics: the results are comic and awful at once. Other stories describe the long shadow of Stalinism. "Birobidzhan" is a fascinating version of the bizarre "homeland" for Jews that Stalin sanctioned and attempted to build within Russia. In "Anzhelika, 13," a girl gets her first period on the day Stalin dies. Terrified, she equates the national mourning, her brutish father's grief and her body's function. The novella, "Peredelkhino," begins with the narrator, Rem Petrovich Krilov, about to produce a servile review of a novel by Leonid Brezhnev. The narrative then flashes back to the '60s, just before the Prague Spring, when Krilov is a rising star of Moscow's official literary culture, with his own suburban dacha. After the defection of a beautiful writer whom he had innocently recommended to an editor, Krilov falls from grace; in the repressive post-1968 climate, he is tarred with her "crime." Kalfus shows a striking talent for transcultural understanding, and for depicting the very strange; fans of Paul Bowles, or of Kalfus's earlier collection, Thirst (to be released in paperback by Washington Square Press), won't want to miss these new tales. Agent, Michael Carlisle. Author tour. (Sept.) FYI: First serial rights to one of the stories, "Salt," have been sold to Bomb magazine. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Alibris, the Alibris logo, and Alibris.com are registered trademarks of Alibris, Inc.
Copyright in bibliographic data and cover images is held by Nielsen Book Services Limited, Baker & Taylor, Inc., or by their respective licensors, or by the publishers, or by their respective licensors. For personal use only. All rights reserved. All rights in images of books or other publications are reserved by the original copyright holders.