Loosely based on the biography of the Russian-born writer Alberto Gerchunoff, who became famous for his portrayal of Jewish gauchos living on the Argentinean pampas, the story of Naftali follows the adventures of a twelve-years old boy who escapes the Russia of the 19th century and moves with his family, under the sponsorship of the philanthropist Baron Maurice Hirsch, to a Jewish colony in Argentina, in the hope of finding a life free of the Russian Tsar and anti-Semitism. Along the way Naftali befriends a local eccentric with a dog so old that it has to be pulled on a platform with wheels; a boy who collects maps and uses them to travel in his imagination in defiance of the Pale of Settlement; a book peddler who introduces him to Cervantes’s Don Quixote; and young gauchos who teach him how to ride a rhea. Naftali’s story becomes a full-blown account of the childhood of a future writer who, possessed by dreams of Don Quixote and haunted by the murder of his father, overcomes the difficulties of immigration and grows infatuated not only with Don Quixote but with everything related to books. The Little Gaucho Who Loved Don Quixote covers not only the panorama of life in the Russian empire and then in Argentinean pampas as seen through a boy’s eyes, but also episodes of Cervantes’s novel that the sensitive and inquisitive young mind compares to his seemingly boring and uneventful life in Russia, imagining for example that Baron Hirsch is Don Quixote in disguise. The novel ends with an image of a mature Naftali who recounts his ordeal during a flood, when he is saved by another “Don Quixote,” a kind and mysterious gaucho, and decides to write a book about Cervantes and his creation. Naftali is well-read, goes to a Jewish school, and meets another original character, Favel Bavilsky, a poet who loves to weave romanticized stories. The novel is peppered with historical vignettes from the Jewish life and the far away past.
A book of poems in Russian by Victor Enyutin (San Francisco, 1983). Victor Enyutin is a Russian writer, poet, and sociologist who emigrated to the US from the Soviet Union in 1975.
This collection of personal essays by a bi-national Russian/U.S. author offers glimpses into many things Soviet and post-Soviet: the sacred, the profane, the mundane, the little-discussed and the often-overlooked. What was a Soviet school dance like? Did communists go to church? Did communists listen to Donna Summer? If you want to find out, read on!
“Cold War Casual” is a collection of transcribed oral testimony and interviews translated from Russian into English and from English into Russian that delve into the effect of the events and the government propaganda of the Cold War era on regular citizens of countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Julia Wiener was born in the USSR a few years before the Second World War; her youth was spent during the “Thaw” period, and her maturity coincided with the years of “Soviet stagnation”, which, in her case, ended with her emigration to Israel in the early 1970s. Her wartime childhood, her Komsomol-student youth, her subsequent disillusionment, her meetings with well-known writers (Andrei Platonov, Victor Nekrasov, etc.) are described in a humorous style and colorful detail. Julia brings to life colorful characters – from her Moscow communal apartment neighbors to a hippie London lord, or an Arab family, headed by a devotee of classical Russian literature. No less diverse are the landscapes against which the events unfold: the steppes of Kazakhstan, the Garden of Gethsemane, New York, Amsterdam, London.
Julia Wiener’s novels focus on those moments when illusory human existence collapses in the face of true life, be it spiritual purity, love, old age, or death.