Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States (Russian Literature Series)

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9781564783561: Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States (Russian Literature Series)
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For half of the twentieth century, there were two superpowers in the world and a gulf of silence between them. Knowledge of Russian culture was based on propaganda and rumour, and their knowledge of the West was no better. When the Soviet Union fell, Russians began to travel to America more regularly, and what they discovered was a very different place to the one they had imagined, but, at the same time, not exactly the one that Americans think they know. This collection of beautifully written and entertaining literary essays by a wide range of Russian writers - young and old, funny and sombre, angry and celebratory, many being translated for the first time - offers readers a unique chance to see Americans in a whole new light, to question how the American dream stands up to the American reality, and to experience the wit and generosity of today's Russian writers.

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About the Author:

Iossel is a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, where he worked as an engineer. Since 1986 he has lived in the U.S. and has an MFA in English from the University of New Hampshire. He was a Stegner Fellow in creative writing at Stanford University from 1989 to 1991. He is the Founder and Director of the Summer Literary Seminars program.

From Publishers Weekly:

Throughout much of the Cold War, Russians regarded the United States with both mistrust and admiration: America through Soviet eyes, it seems, could be a cold-hearted capitalist wasteland as well as a mythic destination of refuge and riches; it could be a sinister ideological foe as well as a beacon of freedom and hope. The collapse of Communism did not make Russia’s picture of America any simpler. As this slim anthology reveals, Russians still perceive the United States in ways that are uncertain and contradictory. One contributor observes how the United States "floats, shifts, drifts," and, like other essayists here, he has difficulty deciding what to say about the place. In a way, this indecision is the book’s greatest asset-the opinions are meandering, raw and honest-but it is also the book’s greatest shortcoming. Too many contributors strive for profundity only to fall very short, leaving the reader in a verbal muck that is sometimes incomprehensible, and sometimes just plain corny ("Tower Records-that bottomless pit of music and whispers"). In some cases, sharper editing would require doing away with entire submissions. This would have given greater prominence to the book’s more promising items, such as Marina Boroditskaya’s musings on Russian and English idioms, which are playful, witty and thought provoking, and Linor Goralik’s prose poem, a biting monologue titled "Real American Girl" that is as astute as it is angry.
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