Yuri Kruman Publishes New Novella THE EGYPT IN MY LOOKING GLASS
While a burgeoning group of 'Gen X' Russian-Jewish writers in English has taken on the subject of Russian Jewish identity in recent years, including Gary Shteyngart, David Bezmozgis and Lara Vapnyar, a new novella by Yuri Kruman offers up a fresh, outsider voice to the genre.
Blending the cultural richness and humor of the Russian immigrant experience with a distinctly Jewish outlook, the book distills the essence of post-Soviet evolution from a scrappy bad stereotype to proper, full-fledged citizens. Following on the heels of his debut novel, "Returns and Exchanges," "The Egypt In My Looking Glass" brings the same blistering voice and cinematic pace to the lives of Russian Jews in upper-middle-class New York and also Brighton Beach The Boulevard of Broken Dreams - with all the mutual resentments on display.
That's what makes the book so unique. Free-wheeling and frank, unsparing in style yet told with surprising humanity, "The Egypt In My Looking Glass" traces the story of a family in crisis. No longer boot-strapped, scrambling refugees now, brilliant and proud lawyers, authors, financiers America's elite the siblings bristle at the notion of their cousin's shady - "Russian" - ways. Yet when their long-lost, deadbeat father surfaces from Moscow, they are forced to grapple with their past and selves. "The Egypt In My Looking Glass" is thrilling in its exploration of success and failure, family and self.
Twenty-five years after their hellish emigration - thirty from their famous father's exodus a sister and her brothers hear his voice again. All three have long since "made it" in the States, despite maybe, because of his abandonment.
Forced by his own divorce to question everything, Vlad reels and frolics to forget himself - and learn to live again. Skirt-chasing author Mark, seething with writer's block, commits himself to marry by a verbal slip. Alla's precocious children prod her to examine who she is and why.
A sleazy cousin Tolik, hopeless Brighton product - is about to score his one big hit, again. His brother, Boris, now religious, struggles to transcend his past. A family get-together threatens to ignite their old resentments.
Edouard Yablonskiy, freshly minted dissident, has one last chance to make amends. His three grown children now must choose to exit their own Egypt and forgive or let the past demand their satisfaction.
The author explains why the subject of Russian-Jewish identity is so fascinating.
"We were always tagged as Jews in Russia, and as Russians in America. Many of us have become quintessential Americans in a short 20 years, highly educated and living the American dream. Our connection to Judaism is much more often cultural - not as much religious - yet we have a strong identification with Israel and other Jews. Now that those of us who came as children are grown up and having our own kids, we are starting to look in the mirror and make sense of who we are and in what order and proportion Jews, Russians, Americans, immigrants and natives, secular and observant, nostalgic and forward-looking, cynical or optimistic, observers of politics or its participants," says Kruman.