How American immigrant literature enables Jewish authors to claim their Russian roots – the Calvert Journal

By retracing these paradoxes, this new wave of writers shows that placing their Russia at the heart of their work is an act of recovery, rather than a marketing ploy. Reyn works inside classic Russian novels while highlighting the variety of experiences excluded by Russian culture. In her story, the Jewish Anna K has as much “Russian soul” as Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

Likewise, in the novel by Ellen Litman Russian club, a Russian Slavic lecturer in America berates a Russian Jewish immigrant student for her essay on Silver Age immigrant writers. “For a real Russian,” proclaims the speaker, “immigration is death. A Russian poet cannot survive in immigration. Yet such speakers are misinterpreted as Russian Jews in America, Israel and Germany claim their Russia and their position in Russian cultural history. While for centuries Jewish writers have been slandered and persecuted in Russia, their descendants abroad receive the honors they deserve.

Although the term “Russian-American literature” may have been coined by publishers eager to ring the cash registers, the possibilities it offers to its authors are clear: they can keep their identity cut off without being forced to comply. one or the other nationality. This literary recovery is precisely what Lara Vapnyar, author of There are Jews in my House and Memoirs of a Muse, described in his essay The writer as a tourist guide. “Then,” writes Vapnyar, “I miraculously acquired the three seemingly inaccessible identities – Russian, Jewish, American – by acquiring a new and most unexpected identity – that of a writer. “

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