Keith Gessen with Paul Constant
Russia-born writer, editor, and translator Keith Gessen makes this welcome Elliott Bay return for his much-anticipated new novel, A Terrible Country (Viking). Author of the earlier novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men and a founding editor of the excellent literary journal n+1, he tells the story of a young man who packs up his life in New York to return to Moscow to help look after his grandmother, with all manner of things happening as a result. To talk with him about this tonight will be Paul Constant, himself co-founding editor of the Seattle Review of Books.
“In Gessen’s exceptional and trenchant novel, floundering 30-something professor Andrei Kaplan flees from New York to Russia, the country of his birth, to reassess his future and take care of his ailing grandmother . . . Andrei’s early attempts to reorient himself to post-Soviet Russian society bring about considerable insight and humor—getting rebuffed by a men’s adult hockey league, getting pistol-whipped outside a nightclub—leading him back to watching old Russian films with his grandmother . . . While poised to critique Putin’s Russia, this sharp, stellar novel becomes, by virtue of Andrei’s ultimate self-interest, a subtle and incisive indictment of the American character.” —Publishers Weekly.
“A cause for celebration: big-hearted, witty, warm, compulsively readable, earnest, funny, full of that kind of joyful sadness I associate with Russia and its writers. Gessen’s particular gift is his ability to effortlessly and charmingly engage with big ideas—power, responsibility, despotism of various stripes, the question of what a country is supposed to do for the people who live in it—while still managing to tell a moving and entertaining human story. At a time when people are wondering whether art can rise to the current confusing political moment, this novel is a reassurance, from a wonderful and important writer.” —George Saunders.
Also to note is that among the Russian writers Keith Gessen has translated is Nobel Prize Laureate Svetlana Alexievich.