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The Invention of Exile: A Novel Hardcover – August 14, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Carmela Ciuraru, The New York Times:
“[An] impressive first novel.”

Boston Globe:
“Rich in history and far-reaching in scope, The Invention of Exile is an achingly painful and all too relevant meditation on what can happen to identity when human beings are crammed inside an unforgiving container of politics, bureaucracy, and fear…[A] wonderful first novel.”

San Francisco Chronicle:
“[An] assured debut…Manko paints a complicated and richly human portrait of the specific loss and separation that borders impose—a timeless subject that resonates with particular relevance in the contemporary moment.”

Interview magazine:
“A stunning, dream-like exploration of geographical and psychic borders… Manko weaves through time and place poetically, presenting striking images.”

Christian Science Monitor:
“Wistful, perceptive… A poignant tale of an immigrant's loss and longing.” 

New York Magazine:
“The summer’s surest candidate for lit-hit crossover.”

Vanity Fair:
“Manko’s debut thrums with longing.”
 Kirkus Reviews (starred):
“A superb study of statelessness…Manko brings plenty of energy to this tale…Manko is a tremendous stylist, using clipped, simple sentences to capture Austin’s mindset as his confidence in escape erodes but never entirely fades; Manko’s shift in perspective toward the end of the book reveals just how much the years of exile have weathered him. She deeply explores two complicated questions: What is the impact of years of lacking a country? And how much does this lack reside in our imaginations? A top-notch debut, at once sober and lively and provocative.”

Publishers Weekly:
“[A] fine fiction debut… The beating heart of Manko’s story is Austin’s determination to be reunited with his family.”

Booklist:
“Manko’s debut is a potent examination of the costs of pride and fear as well as the redemptive power of familial bonds.” 

The Independent (UK):

"Breathless.... Manko's prose and pacing are remarkably assured, rapid when traversing oceans and decades, unbearably tense when Voronkov attempts to re-enter America. 'Paper is stronger than one realises,' is a refrain based in part on the author's family history. With these indelible pages, Manko does her ancestors proud."


Salman Rushdie, author of Joseph Anton and Midnight's Children:
"Vanessa Manko's beautifully written and deeply affecting first novel is the story of a man stranded by history in a strange land, torn away by politics and paranoia from the people he loves, exiled and trapped behind an invisible frontier he dares not cross. Manko ranges expertly between Russia, the USA and Mexico to weave her absorbing tale of emigration, deportation, desperation, paranoia, and finally, improbably, love. The novel reminds one, at times, of Kafka, Ondaatje, and even, in its powerful evocation of marooned isolation, Robinson Crusoe. A brilliant debut."

Colum McCann, author of Transatlantic and Let the Great World Spin:
“Vanessa Manko is a voice for the years to come. Her first novel, The Invention of Exile, is an ambitious tale of a Russian émigré in Mexico City. It is an unflinching portrait of how our lives are structured around the complications of geography, beauty and chance, and, at its core, it is a story about those who live in the double shadows of home and history.”

Siri Hustvedt, author of What I Loved and The Summer Without Men:
The Invention of Exile is an achingly immediate, sensuous, and psychologically acute novel about a man whose life has been suspended by the madness of American politics. The book moves deftly between past and present and from one consciousness to another to create a narrative of high emotional tension that turns on the fate of its exiled central character, the Russian born 'Austin.' Manko’s tender, compassionate, and wise portrait of this man, who waits and waits and waits to return to the life he was meant to live, continues to reverberate inside me. I suspect I will carry him around with me for years to come.”
 
Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name:
"Only writing like Vanessa Manko's, so finely tuned to subtle and nearly inexpressible emotions, to the whispers of deepest loneliness, to the inner-life of a man cut-off from family and country by the capricious machinery of politics and prejudice, can draw such a secret, marginal, puzzling life out of the shadows, and give it the vivid force and poetry of a universal myth. The novel's depiction of Austin [Voronkov] is so intimate and moving that I felt, as I read, that I was living his desperate life myself. The Invention of Exile is a beautiful, bewitching and profound novel."

Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Distrubances:
"Vanessa Manko's fantastically ambitious and rewarding novel, The Invention of Exile, lovingly and carefully details the terrible but wondrous twining of one man's fate with Russian, Mexican and American history."

Betsy Detwiler, founder of Buttonwood Books in Cohasset, MA:
“Vanessa Manko is a true artist with words. Every locale, every scene, every emotion and interaction of characters is vividly created, all through observation of the small details and habits of daily life. The pain of exile, the loneliness, the futility of Austin Voronkov's efforts to reclaim his life, the injustice of the events which have brought him to his desperate existence; all these weigh more heavily as the story of his months and years brings the tension to a heartbreaking pitch. The ending is so right. On the one hand, so anticlimactic, on the other so fraught with the understanding of what lies ahead for Austin. Manko's writing is stunning, and she is able to move so beautifully between past and present. This is an unforgettable debut.”

About the Author

Vanessa Manko earned her MFA in creative writing from Hunter College. She has taught writing at NYU and SUNY Purchase. An excerpt of her novel was published in Granta's winter 2012 issue. Originally from Brookfield, Connecticut, Manko now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (August 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594205884
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594205880
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,019,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Vanessa Manko earned her MFA in creative writing from Hunter College. She has taught writing at NYU and SUNY Purchase. An excerpt of her novel was published in Granta's winter 2012 issue. Originally from Brookfield, Connecticut, Manko now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Grandma TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the year 1913, "Austin", like many other newly arrived immigrants, comes to America. He changes his name, finds a job, learns a bit of English. Eventually he saves enough money to move from the crowded room he shares with a number of other newly arrived immigrants to a room of his own in a private home. He begins to spend some of his time at the local Russian Club, mostly attending cultural events. That is to change everything, because in 1920, in response to the Russian Revolution he is interrogated by the FBI . . . .

Grandma's $0.02 - I really wanted to love The Invention of Exile: A Novel. Sadly, this was a very slow read. I found it almost impossible to care about Manko's rather flatly drawn main character, Austin, and almost equally impossible to give the book my attention for more than a few pages at a time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Meg Sumner TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 25, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Austin seems an odd name for a Russian emigrant, but it was changed when he arrived. Americanized. But does that mean he is Americanized too? This seems to be the key: what is his identity? His ethnic background? His education? His family?

As it begins, Austin is a hard-working engineer quite proud of his accomplishments, so much so that he avoids Russian Workers organizations because they focus to much on the working man, of which he doesn't consider himself. He places himself a degree above because of his education. That doesn't matter when the Red Scare hits the US and many Russians are deported, regardless of whether or not they are a real threat. Austin is one of them....forced to leave, despite all he was accumulated, including an American wife, Julia.

Their marriage is difficult but they manage to have three kids besides travelling further to Mexico, hoping there will be an easier route to re-entry into the US. This is problematic, and Julia and the children are admitted but he remains alone in Mexico. This is the key of the story: being alone in a lonely land, having some much to offer and none to appreciate it. While he tries to show experts his skills, they laugh him off. He has only faint memories of his children, as they are growing quickly apart from him. Would he even recognize them on the street?

Thus the core of the story is this focus: how does one live when they don't want to move on, but are simply disintegrating in that long wait for clemency. How does one exist without hope? Is it okay to form a new life?

I liked the character of Austin: he seems to be an especially capable man, finding lesser work when he needs it rather than give up, and yet at the same time keeping his shoes polished like new.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Austin Voronkov may already have thought he knew the importance of paper when he works at a munitions factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the final years of World War I; after all, he uses it daily to scribble down his engineering designs and dreams, and he reads and re-reads the books he has brought with him from Russia, "Science and Society" and "Aspects of Engineering". But then he runs afoul of a different kind of paper: an official record of his interrogation in which his lack of knowledge of English leads him into being trapped into admitting to being an anarchist -- and he is promptly deported, along with his American wife, Julia, to a Russia enmeshed in a bloody civil war. Slowly, painfully, the couple and their growing family find their way to Mexico -- where Austin will still find himself trapped, stateless, without the right kind of papers and with the wrong kind barring his re-admission to the United States.

Austin's tale is told in alternating segments, as debut author Vanessa Manko chronicles the peregrinations of the younger and still hopeful Austin and Julia and juxtaposes that with the narrow existence of Austin alone in Mexico City in 1948. Julia has long since had her citizenship restored and returned to the United States, the better (she hopes) to fight for her husband from there. Manko paints a claustrophobic and almost terrifying portrayal of Austin's existence: is Jack, the FBI agent who shows up to taunt him with the fact that he will never be allowed to rejoin his family, even real? He eyes visiting Americans -- they are unmistakable, he thinks, they take up space "like a ship berthing in port. To be so lucky, Austin thinks. To know so assuredly one's place in the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Crocker on March 30, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Austin Voronkov is exiled by both the Soviet Union and the USA, and so is stateless. The crushing weight of inhumane rule-bound institutions, the social paranoia of insecure societies, the smug carelessness of those within towards those without, the one enduring reliable bond of family, the delusion of our self-perceptions – all these are examined movingly in Vanessa Manko’s tale from her own family history.

Her style is occasionally formulistic, with obligatory dual clause trailers to every sentence, but her overall gift is to deeply involve the reader in scenarios as varied as early twentieth century New York, the poverty of rural Ukraine, the copper mines of Mexico, and the life of an outcast in Mexico City. It’s well researched, interesting as well as gripping. She creates immense suspense at the climax, but has to leave the big questions she raises hanging, unanswerable.
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