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Dinner with Stalin and Other Stories

by David Shrayer-Petrov

Publication Year: 2014

These fourteen stories by the acclaimed master of Jewish-Russian fiction are set in the former USSR, Western Europe, and America. Dinner with Stalin features Soviet Jews grappling with issues of identity, acculturation, and assimilation. Shrayer-Petrov explores aspects of antisemitism and persecution, problems of mixed marriages, dilemmas of conversion, and the survival of Jewish memory. Both an author and a physician, Shrayer-Petrov examines his subjects through the double lenses of medicine and literature. He writes about Russian Jews who, having suffered in the former Soviet Union, continue to cultivate their sense of cultural Russianness, even as they—and especially their children—assimilate and increasingly resemble American Jews. Shrayer-Petrov’s stories also bear witness to the ways Jewish immigrants from the former USSR interact with Americans of other identities and creeds, notably with Catholics and Moslems. Not only lovers of Jewish and Russian writing but all discriminating readers will delight in Dinner with Stalin and Other Stories.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Cover and Front Flap

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

About the authors

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pp. vii-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-xii

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Behind the Zoo Fence

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pp. 1-22

Behind the zoo fence, a hippopotamus bellowed. The hospital was located in the vicinity of the zoo, in downtown Moscow on the Garden Ring. Children and teenagers were treated in this hospital. The windows of the on-call room, in which Dr. Garin was sitting, opened onto the back of the zoo, where there was an...

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A Russian Liar in Paris

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pp. 23-32

Over ten years have gone by since my wife and I happened to meet this exceptional person. Neither Mila nor I had ever encountered anyone quite like her before. We met her—let’s call my protagonist Taisia Ivanovna Basova—at the editorial offi ce of a journal that promoted Russian literature in France. They published...

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White Sheep on a Green Mountain Slope

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pp. 33-45

This happened a very long time ago, the year my son was born. It was a particularly happy year for me: I had a son, and my fi rst poetry collection came out. I suddenly became a father and a writer. Before that, I had only been a young husband and a young poet....

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Round-the-Globe Happiness

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pp. 46-64

I was standing in St. Peter’s Square. The cathedral’s golden dome glowed like St. Isaac’s. I felt for a moment that I was back in Leningrad. But I was in Rome. The huge crowd was waiting for the Pope to emerge from the Vatican gates. I got there late, when there was barely any room left in the back rows. Standing room only....

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A Storefront Window of Miracles

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pp. 65-75

Left over in our town from the good old days is only one repair shop for cameras, binoculars, typewriters, and computers. In general, no one brings typewriters in for repair. For that matter, are there still typewriters left in our town? Nowadays even cameras aren’t brought in for repair, because it’s cheaper to buy a new one....

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Mimicry

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pp. 76-91

I was invited to lunch at Professor Viktor Turkin’s. The professor and his wife, Rita, live in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Turkin teaches comparative entomology at Brown University. Rita directs a student marionette theater. Their house is full of puppet marionettes. In fact, their collection of marionettes and butterflies is so remarkable that it alone justifi es a visit to the Turkins. One can come...

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Where Are You, Zoya?

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pp. 92-103

Zamkin called and invited us to stay at his summer house. His dacha on Cape Cod. The Zamkins are American Jews whose ancestors hailed from Russia. Zamkin’s grandfather arrived in New York on the same steamer with Sholem Aleichem. There was no way of telling where the Zamkins got their family name. Was it from the...

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Alfredick

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pp. 104-119

He just won’t leave me alone. Won’t get out of my head. Lanky. Bony. Back in the day we used to call the likes of him “carcasses.” There’s so much I could tell him! So much I could pin up to his egg-shaped memory. . . . It would surely give him pause! He would be sitting there in the personnel cafeteria of Moscow’s ...

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Dinner with Stalin

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pp. 120-134

I once read this account by a nineteenth-century Russian memoirist. On the balcony of an opera house, at the end of the 1890s, the memoirist saw Pushkin, as an old man. The memoirist was so struck by this that during the intermission he ran to Pushkin’s box to assure the great poet that he had never accepted his death...

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The Valley Of Hinnom

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pp. 135-156

Leah, Homer, Esau—these are the main characters of my story. And although the names are fi ctitious, the personages are quite real. Everything I recount in this story happened before my eyes. In other words, I describe only what I personally observed. I have no need for imaginary scenes I couldn’t have observed. They,...

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Mimosa Flowersfor Grandmother’s Grave

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pp. 157-168

That morning, Solomon worked in animal care. It wasn’t even noon, but three hundred white mice had been infected with TB bacilli and put back in their cages. Solomon was at a turning point in his animal experiments. If successful, the new method of treating TB could enter clinical trials. There was cause for hope....

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The House Of Edgar Allan Poe

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pp. 169-186

Eduard Polyakov, a Russian émigré of the “third wave,” was walking down the hill from the Rockefeller Library of Brown University toward Benefit Street. Polyakov had come to Providence, the capital of the diminutive state of Rhode Island, to collect materials for a future biography of Edgar Allan Poe. The book had...

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Trubetskoy, Raevsky,Masha Malevich, andthe Death of Mayakovsky

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pp. 187-205

Then, suddenly, I didn’t have any work. Neither academic, nor literary. This happened because we (my wife and I and our son) had applied for an exit visa to emigrate to Israel. We were fired from our academic jobs, and I was also expelled from the Union of Writers. For a year we had been waiting for the permission to...

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The Bicycle Race

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pp. 206-224

I’ve been writing this story my whole life. From the time when I first started to mix the paint of words. When I began to combine the pieces of life, those which occurred in reality, with imaginary circumstances (plot twists, phrases, movement, arrivals of characters in a story). I didn’t invent the courtyard of my...

Notes and Commentaryon the Stories

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pp. 225-260

About the Translators

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pp. 261-262

Back Flaps and Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815652786
E-ISBN-10: 081565278X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815610335
Print-ISBN-10: 0815610335

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Library of Modern Jewish Literature
Series Editor Byline: N/A

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