Book Reviews,  Europe,  FICTION,  Judaism/Jewish Culture

The Free World by David Bezmozgis *** (of 4)

A paean to the Russian virtue to endure.  This set of Russians are Jewish emigres, among the first to be granted permission to escape the crumbling, anti-Semitic,  communist Soviet Union of the 1970s.  A three-generation family takes all their worldly belongings in suitcases and valises to Rome where they wait for permission to move on to the U.S., Canada, Australia, or as a last resort, Israel.  And they wait.  Like a Chekhov play, nothing happens and everything happens.  Characters run on and off stage, great drama accompanied by wild Russian curses, befall them, and like the lives they left behind they wait on lines, drink vodka, endure hardships, laugh, engage in romance, traffic with other Russians, are buffeted by global attempts to politicize their plight, and remain rooted and stateless in Rome.  Bezmozgis overlays a contemporary Jewish twist on an ancient Russian fable and so so with charm, respect, and wit.