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.
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