The Free World by David Bezmozgis

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Bezmozgis’s novel in some respects is a balancing act. Bezmozgis has a keen eye for absurdity, which is a delight for the reader, but which is always in danger of making his quotation from Genesis seem like a hopelessly antiquated message from another planet.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title

Summer, 1978. Brezhnev sits like a stone in the Kremlin, Israel and Egypt are inching towards peace, and in the bustling, polyglot streets of Rome, strange new creatures have appeared: Soviet Jews who have escaped to freedom through a crack in the Iron Curtain. Among the thousands who have landed in Italy to secure visas for new lives in the West are the members of the Krasnansky family — three generations of Russian Jews.

There is Samuil, an old Communist and Red Army veteran, who reluctantly leaves the country to which he has dedicated himself body and soul; Karl, his elder son, a man eager to embrace the opportunities emigration affords; Alec, his younger son, a carefree playboy for whom life has always been a game; and Polina, Alec's new wife, who has risked the most by breaking with her old family to join this new one. Together, they will spend six months in Rome — their way station and purgatory. They will immerse themselves in the carnival of emigration, in an Italy rife with love affairs and ruthless hustles, with dislocation and nostalgia, with the promise and peril of a new life. Through the unforgettable Krasnansky family, David Bezmozgis has created an intimate portrait of a tumultuous era.
Written in precise, musical prose, The Free World is a stunning debut novel, a heartfelt multigenerational saga of great historical scope and even greater human debth. Enlarging on the themes of aspiration and exile that infused his critically acclaimed first collection, Natasha and Other Stories, The Free World establishes Bezmozgis as one of our most mature and accomplished storytellers.

 

About David Bezmozgis

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David Bezmozgis was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1973. His first book, Natasha and Other Stories, won a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was a 2004 New York Times Notable Book. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library. In 2010, he was named one of The New Yorker's “20 Under 40.” 
 
Published March 29, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 372 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction
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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Apr 01 2011

Bezmozgis’s novel in some respects is a balancing act. Bezmozgis has a keen eye for absurdity, which is a delight for the reader, but which is always in danger of making his quotation from Genesis seem like a hopelessly antiquated message from another planet.

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