Zinik crafts an amazing story

November 8, 2012

From Publishers Weekly

With a narrative style and humor that sometimes hints at Nabokov, Zinik (The Mushroom Picker, 1986, 1996), who left Russia in 1975, crafts amazing stories depicting the plight of emigres as they endure their solitude and try, ultimately, to create new lives and new selves. These eight stories give glimpses of the mindset and frustrations that the narrator (also named Zinovy Zinik) experiences. In "A Ticket to Spare," a Russian Jew who travels to Kiev to see a Duke Ellington concert experiences the difficulty of seeking comfort in an unfamiliar city?if only for a day. Being both Russian and Jewish, Zinik finds it hard to meet folks in Kiev; even on the anniversary of the slaughter of the Jews at Babi Yar, he's shunned by fellow Jews engaged in a secret prayer for the victims. The stories have an archness of tone, a playfulness born of the experience of displacement and the accompanying knowledge that the world is endlessly mutable. In "A Chance Encounter," Zinik is allowed by the Soviets to return home briefly to visit his mother's grave, where he meets a woman he vaguely remembers. He becomes convinced she is a former girlfriend, only to find out that she is that former girlfriend's daughter. While walking around Moscow, he enters a familiar building and is suddenly overcome by "a Soviet version of Proustian nostalgia, carried by the urine and garbage underfoot, illuminated by a naked spattered bulb as dim as memory." Zinik captures perfectly and evocatively these memories, which reverberate within his head?his own cork-lined room.