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The Free World: A Novel [Hardcover] Unknown Binding – 2011


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B004WWF9L2
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Bezmozgis' story opens in 1978 with the arrival of the Krasnansky family in Rome.
Morris Massel
To state that "The Free World" is a beautifully written, poignant, engaging book is to understate its brilliance.
Keith A. Comess
That the author would develop his characters past their sexual perversions and affairs.
Karen Bozeman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Morris Massel on April 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Many books have been written about the immigrant experience: the need to leave a land, the difficulty of assimilating into a new culture and the challenge of preserving identity. David Bezmogis, a New Yorker 20 Under 40, uses his new and first novel, The Free World, to tackle the story of the Soviet Jews.

The Soviet Jews that were released in the 1960s and 1970s could not travel directly to Israel or the US. Often, they stopped over in Vienna or Rome en route to the free world. The stop over could take days, weeks and even months. Bezmozgis' story opens in 1978 with the arrival of the Krasnansky family in Rome. The familial patriarch, Samuil, is an old Communist and Red Army veteran, who reluctantly leaves his home and life. His wife, Emma, reconnected with her spiritual heritage in the Soviet Union. Although she is only a supporting character, she displays a sharp understanding of her family and their problems. Their eldest and pragmatic son, Karl, arrives with his wife and two boys. His muscled physique and opportunistic outlook lead him into the underworld of Rome. The younger son, Alec, a bon vivant and womanizer, arrives in Rome, with his new, scandalously acquired bride, Polina.

The family tries to find its way through the maddening bureaucratic maze of Rome, while struggling to survive and understand why they left. On the way, they find other former Soviet Jews and develop interesting connections. Throughout the novel, Bezmozgis takes us back into the characters' colorful histories, developing who they are and why they left.

Bezmozgis was born in Latvia. Like Gary Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story and Absuridstan), Bezmozgis's writing is biting and sharp witted.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The price of freedom comes at a great cost, as illustrated in this wry and acerbic novel of three generations of Soviet Jews who languish in limbo at a pension in Rome in 1978. They have come to this veritable weigh station with all their belongings, dreams and desires, to emigrate to freedom and assimilate in a new land. David Bezmozgis's debut novel reflects a rich repository of knowledge-- he is a Latvian Jew who emigrated to Canada in 1973. He understands the immigrant experience personally, and has used his history slyly and knowingly to create a fictional story that speaks volumes of truth.

The Krasnansky family consists of elderly patriarch Samuil, an ardent Jewish atheist and passionate Communist, his devoted wife, Emma, his two sons Alec and Karl, their respective wives, Rosa and Polina (the only non-Jewish family member), and Karl and Rosa's two children. They have come from Riga, Latvia, in the hope of emigrating to Chicago, but their hopes are dashed by relative (literally) circumstances. Now they are émigrés, waiting for visas to Canada, but the family can't readily agree on this bastion of democracy, a place described as similar in climate to their homeland. Additionally, Samuil's precarious health is slowing up the process of obtaining their papers.

Samuil mourns for his Red Army years, and spends his days in Rome isolated emotionally from his family, writing his memoirs. He befriends a one-legged violinist and Ukrainian army veteran whose beliefs are in opposition to his, but is able to reach an understanding and even a poignant intimacy with Josef. He growls at his laconic sons--Alec's self-indulgent, roving eye, and Karl's swift and sordid mercenary involvement with the underworld of Rome.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tommy Dooley TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is the debut novel of Russian/Canadian David Bezmozgis. It tells a part of the story of the Russian, Jewish, émigrés that were allowed to leave the ongoing revolution of the Soviet and go to the `free world'.

As his vehicle he uses primarily the family Krasnansky - who arrive in a hot Rome in the summer of 1978. They think they are on their way to America as does everyone else of the thousands of émigrés and that they will be welcomed with open arms. Many like Samuil Krasnansky, held important positions back in Riga, he is now levelled more completely than communism ever could to the true ranks of the proletariat. His sons are constantly feuding and scheming as do everyone else. The primary characters are his second son Alec and his wife Polina, they seem to be the weather vane for the families fortunes.

It tells the story of their stay in Rome, and how they eke out a subsistence with dodgy deals, all kinds of deceit and often a helping hand from the refugee organisations. The Russian authorities had been quite generous in letting the Jews go and had given papers to all sorts including refuseniks, dissidents and criminals. This melting pot of political friction, religious ambivalence and criminal tendencies are all explored by Bezmozgis. The lives of each of the characters is explored often by going back to the past to recall what they have been through to bring them to this point, especially the sacrifices and the selfish choices as well as giving into the all too prevalent passions. These continue to haunt and guide them in their present position of being in Rome's waiting room. That is why the Krasnansky's decide on Canada when they are told that the Canadians are not as fussy as the Americans.
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More About the Author

David Bezmozgis is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. David's stories have appeared in numerous publications including The New Yorker, Harpers, Zoetrope All-Story, and The Walrus. His first book, Natasha and Other Stories, was published in 2004 in the US and Canada and was subsequently translated into fifteen languages. Natasha was a New York Times Notable Book, one of the New York Public Library's 25 Books to Remember for 2004, and an Amazon.com Top 10 Book for 2004. Natasha was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award (UK), the LA Times First Book Award (US), and the Governor General's Award (Canada). It won the Toronto Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for First Book.

He has been a performer at The New Yorker Festival (2005 & 2009), The UCLA Armand Hammer Museum (2007), and the Luminato Festival (2008). His work has been broadcast on NPR, BBC, and the CBC, and his stories have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2005 & 2006.

In 2006, David was a screenwriting fellow at the Sundance Labs where he developed his first feature, Victoria Day. The film premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, had a theatrical release in Canada, and received a Genie Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

In the summer of 2010, David was included in The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 issue, celebrating the twenty most promising fiction writers under the age of forty.

David has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a MacDowell Fellow, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library. In the fall of 2011, he will be a fellow at the Harvard/Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

The Free World, David's first novel, was published in April 2011 in the U.S. Canada, the UK, and Holland. Subsequent translations will appear in Germany, Italy, France, Israel and Spain.

Born in Riga, Latvia, David immigrated to Toronto with his parents in 1980.

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