An important Russian voice

November 8, 2012

By Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"

Zinik's one-way ticket took him from the Soviet Union to the West in 1975, and most of his characters have had a similar fate. "You sit with a cocktail at a cafe table and all this joyous, richly diverse world swirls about you. And you start to swirl with it" says one in a letter home to Moscow, and swirl is evident throughout these finely balanced stories. But so is the nostalgia, the restlessness, the lack of connection that so many emigres experience.

In "The Refugee," in fact, set in a Vienna "seeth[ing] with former Soviet citizens," one much-anticipated new arrival never arrives at all, having opted to stay in his homeland. In unembellished prose, Zinik nicely captures the emigre's ambivalence, deftly pinpointing subtle shades of feeling with quick character sketches, e.g,. the rabidly anti-Semitic Englishman who won't concede that one Jewish character is Russian, the lady with the "large dragon-fly head in the panama hat" who typifies a sort of emigre "so out of place under the Atlantic sky." Dating from 1980 to 1992, these stories represent a good selection from an important Russian voice.