PU-239 and Other Russian Fantasies by Ken Kalfus
A Novella and Stories

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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’s ability to imagine a variety of believable yet wholly singular characters whose lives percolate against a backdrop of momentous events.

About Ken Kalfus

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Ken Kalfus is the author of two novels, The Commissariat of Enlightenment and A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, which was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award. He's also published two collections of stories, Thirst and Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. His books have been translated into more than ten foreign languages. He lives in Philadelphia.
Published February 1, 2011 by Milkweed Editions. 314 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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These five short stories and one novella demonstrate Kalfus's sense of the absurd, and his marvelous knowledge of modern Russia.

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