A Good Book

I just finished a good book, The Free World. It’s a novel about a Russian-speaking Jewish family originally from the Soviet Ukraine but lately living in Latvia (also in the Soviet Union). The story captures them in 1978, in a period of their lives when they are nowhere that is, in limbo in Rome. They are awaiting in that city, where they have no emotional or historical ties, their emigration to a final destination that has not been determined. It could be Israel, or the US, or Canada. One of their acquaintances even departs for Australia.

The book has the features of all good novels. Its characters quickly come to matter to the reader; he remains attached to them to the end, and he regrets having to let them go; he misses them afterwards. The back-and-forth in the lives of this family cover the whole Soviet era, from the February Revolution to the novel’s present and the back-and-forth work. This reader, at any rate, never felt lost, or disoriented or left behind. The author, who deals with events that took place when he was three, is brilliant at describing the psychological and, especially, the social dislocation of emigration. Unlike many novelists who try the topic, he does it without melodrama and without excessive sentimentalism. I especially admire the fact that this novel seems to me to be both very Jewish and completely universal. Let me specify that I am not Russian, not Ukrainian, not Jewish, and certainly not Latvian (but I know where Latvia is).

Bezmozgis, David. 2011. The Free World. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.New York.

About jacquesdelacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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2 Responses to A Good Book

  1. gary says:

    Sounds like a good read. For myself as a spiritual man the term connectedness comes up. The world because of instant communication and fast travel has become a smaller place. Yet, the world because of multiculturalism becomes a much bigger place at the same time. We have choices to make because we can test our default beliefs.

    Contrasting our lives from a place where our homeland dissolves and then looking for a better life somewhere else is fast approaching for us even in the United States.

    For us here, life is (was) lived in the height of opulence, yet what we are learning is that it is (was) an extremely artificial opulence. It is (if you are awake) dissolving before your very eyes. Can we let it go? Can we look to something better to connect to? Is there something better? Is there anything with which to connect that is stable and unmoving – that will not dissolve?

    I believe that the standardless economy (gold) within which we live will fall. The more weight (words and debt) we stash on the ceiling, the more destruction and loss of life will occur when it descends. We actually have (had?) the ability to stop this crash but because of connectedness, that is, what it was we thought was our savior, we did not access the courage to face the biggest enemy of our age, those who have effectively removed the standard (our constitution) and became our new one. GK

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Gary: The book is about disconnectedness, I think, perhaps another word for freedom. I too think our opulent world is dissolving. For some reason, I don’t believe we are gong back t the caves but more to 1960. I say for “some reason,” but one reason is that most technical progress cannot be turned back. “We” certainly do more with less. We couldn’t unlearn if we wanted to.
      Yours, are perceptive comments, as usual but you seem to be systematically pessimistic. If this country adopted the gold standard, would your pessimism dissipate?

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