Considering the esoteric subject matter, the hypnotic charm of this biography comes as a complete surprise. Though I had expected the book to be good, I had no idea how quickly and how thoroughly it would engage and ultimately captivate my interest. Through this sensitive author/artist, the reader shares the quest for information about five generations of his family history, delights in the discovery of his family’s art collecting prowess, and thrills at his ability to convey the charms of a collection of 264 netsukes from the early 1800s. Despite the sadness that accompanies the Anschluss in Vienna and leads to the loss of the family’s entire financial resources, the novel is far from melancholic. Ultimately, he connects with the reader, who cannot help but feel privileged to have been a part of this author’s journey of discovery.
Category Archive for 'Ukraine'
This tiny book, closer to a short story than to a novella, was the last piece of fiction by author Joseph Roth (1894 – 1939), and was published posthumously in 1940. As such, it becomes a particularly poignant study of Roth’s last days as he waited for the death he knew was coming. The Leviathan his allegorical last story, features an observant but illiterate Jew living in Progrody in the Ukraine who has become the premier dealer of coral jewelry for the farmers’ wives in the community and surrounding area. Nissen Piczenik respects his customers, entertains them when they come to town to see his wares, and offers good corals at good prices. Nissen has never left Progrody and has always yearned to see the ocean where his corals live, and when a young sailor comes home on leave from Odessa, he persuades the sailor to take him with him when returns to port. At home, he learns that a new coral seller has set up shop in the next town, and when he meets this seller, he discovers why this merchant has been able to undercut him in prices and lead his former customers to believe that Nissen has been cheating them. Nissen’s world dramatically changes as he comes to know the new coral seller, and one day he makes a fateful decision which changes the world as he knows it. Allegorical, with clear parallels to the author’s own life.
This sensitive and memorable depiction of the establishment of Soviet Socialist Republics by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1939, with its bloodshed and violence, is filled with trenchant observations of real people behaving realistically during times of real crisis. In clear, unadorned prose, author Theodore Odrach depicts the lives of rural peasants with sensitivity and an awareness both of their independence and of their shared values, contrasting them with the mindless, bureaucratic officials who enjoy wielding power over human beings which have become mere ciphers to them. A sense of dark humor and irony, which may be the only thing that makes survival possible, distinguishes this novel from other novels of this period, and no reader will doubt that this book is written by a someone who has seen the atrocities unfold, experienced the injustices, empathized with his fellow citizens, and felt compelled to tell the world about the abuses. Odrach sets his story in Hlaby, in the Pinsk Marshes, an enormous marshland which extends into Poland, Belarus, and the Ukraine, a place which is so remote that it cannot be reached except in the winter when the marsh is frozen. When the Bolsheviks arrive in 1939, they announce that henceforth this village will be part of the Belarus Soviet Socialist Republic.