The View from Stalin's Head by Aaron Hamburger

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The ten stories in The View from Stalin’s Head unfold in the post–Cold War Prague of the 1990s—a magnet not only for artists and writers but also for American tourists and college grad deadbeats, a city with a glorious yet sometimes shameful history, its citizens both resentful of and nostalgic for their Communist past. Against this backdrop, Aaron Hamburger conjures an arresting array of characters: a self-appointed rabbi who runs a synagogue for non-Jews; an artist, once branded as a criminal by the Communist regime, who hires a teenage boy to boss him around; a fiery would-be socialist trying to rouse the oppressed masses while feeling the tug of her comfortable Stateside upbringing. European and American, Jewish and gentile, straight and gay, the people in these stories are forced to confront themselves when the ethnic, religious, political, and sexual labels they used to rely on prove surprisingly less stable than they’d imagined.

As Christopher Isherwood did in his Berlin Stories, Aaron Hamburger offers a humane and subtly etched portrait of a time and place, of people wrestling with questions of love, faith, and identity. The View from Stalin’s Head is a remarkable debut, and the beginning of a remarkable career.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Aaron Hamburger

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Aaron Hamburger is the author of the short-story collection The View from Stalin's Head, for which he was awarded the Rome Prize by The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was awarded a fellowship from the Edward F. Albee Foundation and won first prize in the David Dornstein Memorial Creative Writing Contest for Young Adult Writers. His writing has appeared in The Village Voice, Out, Nerve, and Time Out New York. He teaches writing at Columbia University and lives in New York City.
Published March 9, 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks. 272 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Hamburger offers fairly conventional satire on outsiders otherwise attracted by Prague’s dark romantic history, such as Rachel (in “Jerusalem”), who finds herself drawn to an intense Jewish theology student yet finds the strength to dump him when she realizes his religiosity is her rival;

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Publishers Weekly

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(Mar. 16) Forecast: Hamburger treads some of the same ground as Arthur Phillips ( Prague) and Jonathan Safran Foer ( Everything Is Illuminated), but doesn't achieve the same momentum, though the collection will benefit from the current boom in post-Communist fiction.

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