Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Stalin's Barber: A Novel Hardcover – December 16, 2012
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Stalin's Barber is all that the great historical novels used to be—epic in scope, with powerful characterizations, visceral action, and a blazingly intelligent authorial point of view. Here we meet—and know—the chief players in the extraordinary centrifuge that was Stalin's Soviet Union. The culture is revealed and flayed; the lives are displayed and understood—this is ‘grand’ writing, in the sense of ‘grand’ opera, from a man who is already a master playwright, and now deserves to be a world figure. (Frank Delaney, author of the New York Times bestselling Ireland: A Novel)
A vivid, imaginative story rich in detailed characterisation which takes the reader on a dark journey laced with black humour into the heart of the USSR at the height of Stalin’s power. Levitt explores a terrifying world of lies, deceit, and half truths; a world of party hacks, informers, and secret police; a world where an innocent phrase, misplaced ‘joke,’ or misinterpreted glance leads to imprisonment, deportation, torture, and murder. Against all the odds, the central character, a Jewish barber, retains his spirit of independence and dreams of ‘freedom’ for himself and his extended family, all of whom suffer at the hands of the State. However, when he is given the job of Stalin’s barber, he seems doomed to certain death. Every time he is summoned, he has to shave Stalin. But who is the man he shaves—is it really ‘The Beloved Leader’ or a double? A disturbing, highly readable insight into the ‘nightmare’ world of the Soviet state. (Martin Jenkins, former chief producer, British Broadcasting Corporation (Drama) and founding artistic director of the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool)
Men will tell their barber things they wouldn't tell their wives, and Stalin was no exception. In a novel as tantalizingly broad as the steppe and a plot as treacherous as the taiga, Paul M. Levitt penetrates to the Soviet heart of darkness. He weaves his tale around a question as dangerous as the razor wielded by the Great Leader's talented barber—what secrets do these two men share and who, in the end, really holds in his hands the power to change history?
(Peter Kracht, University of Pittsburgh Press)
Barbers are traditionally also bloodletters. The twentieth century has had some spectacular meetings between haircutters and tyrants—Charlie Chaplin's being the most famous—but here, the field of operations is even wider: from southeastern Europe to starving villages in Russia to doubles in the Kremlin. And just when you think any of it might be real, you turn a corner and meet Nikolai Gogol. A surreal ride.
(Caryl Emerson, Princeton University)
[Stalin’s Barber is] beautifully written in an effortless prose that is erudite without pretension. I admire it and envy it. (Sir Arnold Wesker, playwright, playwright and author)
Levitt is ambitiously epic. . . . With equal parts comedy and tragedy, Levitt vividly illustrates the darkly humorous experience of life in a totalitarian state, where no one can be trusted and the law is removed from reason. . . . The novel soars when Levitt brings [all of] the strands together in the second half.
This fascinating novel is easy to admire . . . [it] captures [the] horror [of Stalin’s 1930s Russia] and yet maintains an undercurrent of absurdist humor. . . . Levitt’s powerful narrative variously suggests Chaplin’s Great Dictator, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Voltaire’s Candide, Heller’s Catch-22 and Brecht’s Mother Courage, but remains an entirely original, entirely remarkable work of the imagination.
(The Washington Post)
Let’s just leave it that this is tale well-told (no surprise, the author is a playwright), full of philosophy and surreal humor, excellent characters, and gripping action, to say nothing of some good history. That the protagonist is a barber offers an exceedingly intimate view of things we might previously have thought to be rather grand scale. (Russian Life)
While Stalin’s Barber serves as an interesting work of fiction, its real value is as a humanized portrayal of history that draws family members and friendships from what might otherwise be an impersonal ledger of atrocities. Stalin’s rule was so brutal and the statistics about his crimes are so vast that telling the story of an individual man among the millions who suffered can be a difficult feat. Paul M. Levitt does it successfully. (Philosophy of Shaving)
About the Author
Paul M. Levitt is professor of English at the University of Colorado and the author of several novels, plays, and works of literary criticism. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.
Top customer reviews
Most recent customer reviews
This book reminded me the books of famous Russian master teller Tolstoy.
It is well constructed and intricately composed and truly "a good read."