My review of Margarita Khemlin’s Klotsvog, in Lisa C. Hayden’s translation

I’m delighted to see my review of Margarita Khemlin’s powerful novel Klotsvog in Lisa C. Hayden’s translation up on The Common. Huge thanks to Nina Sudhakar for editing.

The piece is available online for free, and I urge you to spread the word, subscribe, and donate to this wonderful publication that focuses on writing of place. And they pay their writers, too!

“The year is 1950 in Kiev. A twenty-year-old college student, Maya Klotsvog, falls in love with her professor, Viktor Pavlovich. He’s eight years older and married. One day, the professor’s wife, Darina Dmitrievna, catches up with Maya at the tram stop and reveals that her husband loves Maya and has asked for a divorce. He wants to marry Maya and have children with her. But Darina Dmitrievna adds something else: “You’re Jewish and your children would be half Jewish. And you yourself know what the situation is now. You read the papers, listen to the radio. And then that shadow would fall on Viktor Pavlovich himself, too. Anything can happen. Don’t you agree? Babi Yar over there is full of half-bloods.”

https://www.thecommononline.org/review-klotsvog-by-margarita-khemlin/

A review of LIKE WATER in World Literature Today!

I love seeing my book resonating with readers out there. Here’s another lovely review in one of my favorite literary magazines out there, World Literature Today, written by Lanie Tankard:

Many stories address mothering, particularly combined with employment. In the inventive “Dandelion,” an author mails off her nineteen-month-old child as a metaphorical manuscript to her New York publisher. Zilberbourg monitors the maternal phenomenon through generations as if turning a kaleidoscope to watch patterns shift from grandmother to mother to daughter.

https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2020/spring/water-and-other-stories-olga-zilberbourg

LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES is available for sale on WTAW Press website and at your favorite local bookstore, in paperback and in ebook formats.

A review of LIKE WATER in Necessary Fiction

Thank you Jaye Viner for reviewing my book in Necessary Fiction!

For many Americans, the fall of the Soviet Union in December of 1991 has faded into history. It is of the past, removed, something that makes for good television. At most, it is an event of international importance, something that happened “over there.” This is less true for Americans who were born in the USSR such as author Olga Zilberbourg, whose first book of English-language short stories, Like Water and Other Stories, was released last fall. For Zilberbourg, 1992, the year after the fall, is a milestone year around which many of her stories revolve. It acts as an invisible undercurrent weaving through the collection.

http://necessaryfiction.com/reviews/LikeWaterandOtherStories

My book is available from WTAW Press in paperback and ebook formats.

Aleksandr Melikhov reviews my book The Clapping Land in Zvezda

В ноейшем номере журнала “Звезда,” старейшего в России, опубликована рецензия на мою книжку Хлоп-страна.

Сборник рассказов Ольги Гренец «Хлоп-страна» (М., 2017) пересказать тем более невозможно, поскольку каждый рассказ этой американской писательницы, родившейся в Петербурге (Ленинграде), по-своему хорош и по-своему оригинален. Перескажу хотя бы один, чтобы те, кто книгу не читал, поняли, что нужно прочесть и остальные.

Александр Мелихов

Книга доступна в магазине Лабиринт и др.

Changing the rules of reality to get at the raw truth of an emotionally complicated experience

I’m deeply grateful to Jen Hinst-White of The Common for this thoughtful review of LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES:

The story drops an idea on the table and leaves the reader with something to puzzle out. It’s an example of Zilberbourg’s skill with brevity; even the longer pieces in this collection are just ten or twelve pages, stories to eat quickly and digest slowly. Some, like “Email” and “One’s Share,” are no longer than a paragraph. (This feels appropriate, given all the childrearing themes here. For parents of small children, sometimes an entire meal consists of small, stolen bites, chewed while doing something else. The same can be true for our reading and writing lives.)

The stories in this collection are so interrelated that questions provoked by one story are sometimes given context by another.

https://www.thecommononline.org/review-like-water-by-olga-zilberbourg/

My book is available from WTAW Press.

LIKE WATER gets a review in LARB, shared with Olga Livshin’s poetry collection “A Life Replaced”

I’m delighted and grateful to Linda Kinstler and Los Angeles Review of Books for reviewing my book in a thoughtful piece that places it side by side with the book by my comrade and compatriot Olga Livshin.

What should one tell one’s children of a former life? How much should be passed down? How much can be? These questions also animate Olga Zilberbourg’s new book of short fiction, Like Water and Other Stories, her first collection published in the United States. …

One of Zilberbourg’s heroines, newly graduated from college and desiring to learn more about her heritage, goes to live with an elderly Russian woman in a nearby town. When that experience does not suffice, she goes to St. Petersburg, where she catches the flu, gets groped, and feels alienated and stonewalled by the city’s bureaucracy. “I was back in the United States within a month,” our heroine admits. She discovers that the city of her parents owes her nothing, that it is not required to open itself up to those who were deflected from its path.

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/deflected-by-this-bitter-era-on-olga-livshins-a-life-replaced-and-olga-zilberbourgs-like-water-and-other-stories/

Review of LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES in The Manchester Review

Alicia J. Rouverol, a writer and a scholar based in the UK, wrote about my book in The Manchester Review. The anglophone corner of my heart where I store my memories of learning by heart “Down Whitehall street, there’s a square, Trafalgar Square” from my Soviet English textbook in 7th grade, couldn’t be more pleased with this development!

In the remarkable Like Water and Other Stories (WTAW Press), released in September 2019, Zilberbourg offers a collection of shorts that call us to query our sense of time and place, mortality, and most especially identity. Her topics range from migration and mobility, to parenthood and miscarriage; settings feature rural Russia to urban America (Rochester, NY; San Francisco; among others). Global place/displacement serves as a centrepoint of the collection, making this volume particularly timely. Yet it is Zilberbourg’s play with the story form in this collection that draws us in, inviting a re-consideration of how collections can at once reveal substantive stand-alone works and generate a body of work united as a whole. The blend of ‘story play’ in combination with themes that reverberate in these times makes this a collection especially rich and worthy of reading and contemplating.

http://www.themanchesterreview.co.uk/?p=11103

It’s a lovely in-depth piece — please click through to read the rest.

Review of Like Water

I love that this reviewer pointed out “Ada.” It’s an important story for me, and I deeply care for the character, but I never did find a home for it in a lit mag. It’s so great to see Ada hold her own in the collection.

“My favorite story, “Ada at Twelve and a Half,” felt of these the most utterly specific and intensely imagined, the kind of story that reads not like a fiction but a detailed reporting of an actual event, the log of an inner life. It’s about a little girl who wishes she didn’t have to go to school–who wants so much to walk past it to anywhere, anything must be better than this, she wants so much to be someone, somewhere different–but she ends up in her classroom “where she will sit, trying, and failing, to accept the ordinary.”

“To Understand Russia’s Complexities, Turn to Its Contemporary Literature”

Epiphany published a blog post I wrote, highlighting three fascinating recent translations from Russian.

A FRIEND’S TEN-YEAR-OLD SON son recently came up to me at a party to ask, “You’re from Russia, right?” Sensing caution in my assent, the boy hesitated before asking the next question, clearly trying to phrase it in a way that wouldn’t cause offense but would express his curiosity. He finally came up with, “It’s a very violent place, isn’t it?”

Whenever I’m asked to summarize the entire country of Russia at a party, I invariably recall a scene from a popular Soviet movie…

Click here to read the piece.

Review of The Consequences by Niña Weijers, trans. by Hester Velmans

I’m delighted to have this review up on The Common. It took longer to write than I had anticipated, in part, because every time I returned to this book, there was more to say about it. So many fascinating layers!

Outstanding books often have a way of catching the reader by surprise, one insight, one unexpected narrative shift at a time. Niña Weijers, a debut novelist from the Netherlands, begins her book as a character study of her protagonist, Minnie Panis. Minnie is a conceptual artist of growing international reputation, whose career has been built on acts of public self-abnegation.  With each turn of the page, Weijers extends her subject and thematic reach, keeping her protagonist in focus while exploring contemporary art, mysticism, Mayan beliefs, and early childhood development (among other themes) to enrich our understanding of Minnie’s character and the forces that govern her life.

Minnie’s story is told by an omniscient narrator who documents Minnie’s history of “disappearances”: moments of near death and of extreme out of body experiences, all of which Hester Velmans, an NEA fellowship recipient for translation, has rendered to strong effect in plain and unpretentious language. The prologue introduces us to Minnie in February, 2012 when she falls through a frozen lake in Amsterdam. This is described as a deliberate gesture—not a suicide attempt, but rather a Houdini-like disappearing act, Minnie’s third. But why such a radical performance? The ensuing narrative leads us on an investigation. . . .

Read the rest of this review here.