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The Gates of November [Kindle Edition]

Chaim Potok , Leonid Slepak , Vladimir Slepak , Alexander Slepak , Maria Slepak
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $4.96 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

--The Boston Globe

The father is a high-ranking Communist officer, a Jew who survived Stalin's purges. The son is a "refusenik," who risked his life and happiness to protest everything his father held dear. Now, Chaim Potok, beloved author of the award-winning novels The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev, unfolds the gripping true story of a father, a son, and a conflict that spans Soviet history. Drawing on taped interviews and his harrowing visits to Russia, Potok traces the public and privates lives of the Slepak family: Their passions and ideologies, their struggles to reconcile their identities as Russians and as Jews, their willingness to fight--and die--for diametrically opposed political beliefs.

"[A] vivid account . . . [Potok] brings a novelist's passion and eye for detail to a gripping story that possesses many of the elements of fiction--except that it's all too true."
--San Francisco Chronicle

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Potok, well known for his novels of Jewish family life such as The Chosen, turns to nonfiction in The Gates of November, a wrenching family chronicle with a riveting historical undercurrent. The story of the family patriarch, Solomon Slepak, spans most of the book: ignoring his mother's wish that he become a rabbi, Slepak emigrated at 13 to America, became a Marxist in New York, returned to fight in the Russian Revolution, and rose to prominence within the Communist Party. But while Solomon remained a convinced Bolshevik, his son Volodya rejected socialism when anti-Semitism emerged during Stalin's era. Disowned by his father, Volodya was later exiled to Siberia as a dissident. The story of the Slepaks is simultaneously the story of Soviet Jewry and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist Potok (The Chosen) presents here the history of a family of Soviet Jews centered on the relationship of father and son. Solomon Slepak was an old-guard Bolshevik who never lost his faith in the party?and survived the Stalinist purges miraculously and mysteriously (Stalin exterminated almost all old party members). His son, Volodya, grew up believing in the party but, as he married and started raising a family, came to question the Communist system and eventually became a refusenik, a dissident who protested openly against the regime. The author met Volodya and his wife, Masha, in 1985 while on a trip to Moscow. This compelling account, which is also a chronicle of the Soviet dissident movement, highlights the heroism, and sacrifice, of those who stand up to the power of a totalitarian state. (Nov.) FYI: The title comes from a line of poetry by Aleksandr Pushkin.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1432 KB
  • Print Length: 271 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B009BI7FP0
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 24, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4DKG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,130 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FROM BOLSHEVIK TO "REFUSEDNIK" IN TWO GENERATIONS January 4, 2004
The paterfamilias of the Slepak family is "The Old Bolshevik," Solomon. He comes on the scene in the very early years of the Russian Revolution as an avid revolutionary. Even though he is Jewish, and Jews are looked on as part of the "internationalist" enemies, he rises high in the Communist hierarchy and somehow manages to survive all of the Stalinist purges. No one knows quite why, but he is, arguably, the highest ranking of the original revolutionaries except, of course, Stalin, himself, to do so. No matter what horrors are the responsibility of Stalin or his successors, Solomon always believes that they are necessary aspects of "The Revolution." Even when he and his family suffer from these excesses, he retains his faith in his leaders and their actions. In fact, when Stalin is denounced after his death, Solomon's attitude is that Stalin did what was necesary during his time, and the later leaders are now doing what must be done now. Like so many zealots, even those of the present time, he believes that whatever is done in the name of the cause is right.
For purposes of this family history, this belief comes to a head when he, for all purposes, disowns his son, Volodya, for wanting to emigrate out of the U.S.S.R. to Israel.
The government, using as an excuse that Volodya has worked in a field where he "knows secrets," refuses him permission to leave. Volodya and his wife, Masha, become activists, working on behalf of those Jews refused permission to emigrate. Because of these activities, Volodya loses one job after another, is exiled to an unliveable part of Siberia for five years, and is frequently imprisoned. All of this does serious damage to his health, but he perseveres.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Chaim Potok, well known for his novels ("The Chosen," "My Name is Asher Lev," amongst others), has frequently dealt with the theme of father/son conflict, of generation and cultural gaps. In "The Gates of November," he uses the same theme, but Potok now turns to a non-fiction account, an epic work with two cores: 20th century history of the Soviet Union and a personal drama. It is a family tale in which Potok (himself active in the movement for Soviet Jewry) documents the plight of the Jews in the Soviet Union.
The book is divided in two sections. The first one describes the life of Solomon Slepak, a Jewish renegade who emigrates to the U.S.A., discovers Marxism, returns to the Soviet Union, becomes an ardent, ruthless Bolshevik and rises to prominence within the Communist Party. The second part narrates the life of Volodya (Solomon's son). As a product of a different historical context and perspective, Volodya rejects socialism, revives his Jewish identity (mainly as a result of the prevailing anti-Semitism), attempts to emigrate to Israel and becomes an international famous "refusenik" (Jewish activist who was denied exit visa from the Soviet Union to Israel).
The author developes the family account based on taped interviews with Volodya, his wife, two sons, and other family members and friends. Because of lack of first hand accounts from Solomon, the narrative for the first part of the book lacks interest and factual proves. For example, it is beyond understanding how Solomom Slepak was able to survive through the purges against the Jews, especially considering that he ran high in the communist organization.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History of a Jewish Family in Russia September 6, 2002
I�m a great fan of Chaim Potok (who passed away recently, in case you didn�t hear). He�s a brilliant novelist who was educated to be a rabbi, but never had a congregation. He apparently was approached some time in the 80�s to write this story, and finally managed to complete it a few years ago. It�s a theme that Potok returned to repeatedly in his fiction: fathers and sons, conflict in families, trying to make things right and do the right thing.
In this instance, the author met the second generation of the Slepak family. The first generation was an old Bolshevik who commanded a division of the Red Army in the Far East during the Russian Civil War, and often met Stalin for press briefings in the 30�s. By then he spoke 11 languages, 8 of them fluently, and so translated newspapers and magazines for Stalin. He was almost purged in the late thirties, wound up retiring early in the mid 40�s, and lived to be an old man. He was also Jewish, though completely assimilated and non-religious. He had a family, including a son who turned out very different from the father.
The son became a refusenik in the seventies, trying to leave the country when it became apparent that anti-Semitism reared its ugly head in the period after WW2. He was one of the leaders of the group, and was quite prominent. He and his wife were able, finally, to move to Israel. The father was alive for the early part of the refusenik movement, and was mystified that his son wanted to go to Israel.
All in all this is an interesting book. I do think that his prose works better in fiction than it does in non-fiction. That being said, this is still a very good book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Jews, visas and Russia
It took me longer than usual to finish this book. Informative and well written but so troubling. If you are interested in the horrors Russia imposed on people especially Jews,... Read more
Published 6 days ago by JoAnn Socha
3.0 out of 5 stars Gets boring!
I've read all Chaim Potok's books but this one gets long winded and boring in the middle. His fiction is much better.
Published 2 months ago by Helga Pepper
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gates of November
Chaim Potok is an excellent writer. The treatment of Russian Jews during the time of the Soviet Union was deplorable. More people should be made aware. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Linda Palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaim Potok Master Storyteller
Great story! Learned a lot about life for Jews under the communists an Russians, then Soviets, and refusniks trying to leave Russia for Israel.
Published 7 months ago by Rolf Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read, highly recommended
Chaim writing on the Jews in Russia is extremely interesting. I felt as if I were waking next to each character as they progressed through their cycles of trials and heartaches. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ralph E. Lambright
Chaim Potok has been my favorite author for decades. Though I am not Jewish, I am grateful and appreciative for his fiction as it has supported me through internal transitions... Read more
Published 15 months ago by nadine
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a Novel
I am a great fan of Potok's novels and writing. This book, though, is more a documentary of a terrible time for Russian Jews, and particularly for one family. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Skids
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Chaim Potok is an incredible Author and I and my children have really taken to his writing style and gift for story telling. This is an excellent read.
Published 19 months ago by W. T. Langley
5.0 out of 5 stars Life for the Jews in the 20th century
While this book is a little cumbersome to read, it is gutt-renching in it's power as it describes the plight of Jews during the 20th century from the old red guard to the... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Gregory Landenburg
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, helps me understand my own families history!
I was born in Ukraine and immigrated half a year before the collapse of USSR. Many of the accounts I read in this book are very similar to what I've heard and experienced growing... Read more
Published on November 15, 2008 by David Feldman
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