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Petropolis Paperback – March 25, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
The book's plot takes you to five major cities (and a few smaller ones) on two continents while following the main character on her journey from Siberia to the United States. You would think there's too much plot to fit in one novel, yet the book doesn't feel like it's bursting at the seams. You really get to know the characters and the places, to the point where if you've never been to Russia, you really get a feeling for the place, the pace of life there, etc (and if you've never been to the US, you do for it as well.)
I just finished Petropolis.
I think this is the first book that I've read so far that truly captures the post- soviet childhood /immigration/ Russian Jewish/ experience. I think all of us have some interesting "Russian Immigrant" stories, but this is the first work that truly describes what it was like in the end, when there was no more ideology and everything was in decay.
I think I was mostly impressed with how well you summed up perceptions --- the way philanthropic Americans see Jewish refugees, how some Russians play up to the stereotype, how the intelligentsia view themselves, the type of life that a Russian "solider" has, the family bond (or a lack-there-of), the acceptance of prejudice, the way a Russian immigrant sees an American, the hopelessness that sometimes sets in (especially due to culture shock) etc etc.
I immigrated when I was fairly young, but for some reason I perfectly remember our Kiev communal apartment, our loving yet constantly drunk neighbors, and my art class at the local Pioneers Club with all of my brutally totalitarian, yet excellent teachers.
I also remember how haggled my parents looked after the flight from Sheremetivo II to NY, how polite my dad was when a Rabbi from a local Yeshiva forced my dad to recite "Shema" in Hebrew (my dad is Orthodox Christian), and how much we all struggled with the language, mannerisms and constant American optimism (be it fake or real).
Overall Petropolis is a realistic account of what it's like....
I would love to find a Russian translation to give to my parents.
Thank you for writing this.
It is more than a bit ironic that some of the best "Russian" literature created in recent years has been written in English. The Diaspora that followed the fall of the Soviet Union has borne a great deal of literary fruit produced by writers such as Gary Shteyngart (Absurdistan), Lara Vapnyar (Memoirs of a Muse), and Olga Grushin (Dream Life of Sukhanov). The original, entertaining "Petropolis" by first-time novelist Anya Ulinich is a fine addition to this body of work.
"Petropolis" (the title is taken from a poem by Osip Mandelstam) tells the story of Sasha Goldberg. An adolescent, Sasha is young, overweight, ungainly, and part-black and Jewish in a world in which just one of those attributes is enough to mark you as an outsider. We first meet Sasha in her Siberian hometown, Asbestos2. Asbestos2, as the name suggests, is a city created during Stalin's reign in power to support the mining of asbestos. The fall of the USSR and the depletion of the mine have turned Asbestos2 into a bleak, post-apocalyptic city rapidly on its way to becoming a ghost-town. Sasha's father left the family for the United States when she was an infant.
Petropolis is the story of a journey, or series of journeys, something of a later-day Russian Ulysses. It takes Sasha from Asbestos2 to Moscow, from Moscow to Phoenix (where she is to be a mail order bride), from Phoenix to Michigan, and from Michigan to Brooklyn where she finds the father who deserted her as a child. The story also takes us back to Asbestos2 where Sasha's journey finds some sense of closure and reunites her with the child she left behind (like father like daughter) along the way.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have this giddy curiosity of adopting free books I find (be it on the curb or from the library "free books" cart in its entrance). Read morePublished 22 months ago by G. Barton
Anya Ulinich writes of her main character's Soviet childhood and youth with much love and nostalgia, and with gentle irony. Read morePublished on May 2, 2014 by Konstantin Korovyev
In Petropolis, we meet Sasha Goldberg--an awkward, overweight, precocious Jew growing up in poverty in economically depressed Siberia. Read morePublished on August 22, 2013 by MJG
An engrossing account of a young girl's youth in a dismal Russian factory town, and her importation to America! as a "mail-order bride". Read morePublished on July 25, 2013 by Teh Arbitrageur
I had suggested that we read this for our book club in St. Petersburg, Russia composed of a pretty mixed group of expats and Russians. Read morePublished on July 5, 2013 by Robin Jensen
I really liked this book, but not sure what to say about it. It is a little bit stream-of-consciousness from the odd main characters viewpoint. Read morePublished on January 4, 2011 by eric_the_redder
Petropolis tries very hard to be dark and satirical and paint a picture of America and Russia that is both brutal and touching. Read morePublished on September 27, 2010 by David