The Jewish Lover

Edward Topol, Author, Christopher Barnes, Translator St. Martin's Press $25.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-312-19291-4
Already a bestselling novelist in his native Russia, Topol (Red Snow) blends intrigue, erotica and politics, adding a dash of magical realism in his first offering for the U.S. market in a decade. Set in the Soviet Union during the 1970s, this is the story of two men, one a high-profile Jewish journalist with a passion for young Russian virgins, and the other a KGB officer seeking revenge for the seduction of his only daughter. Iosif Rubinchik sees it as his mission to help young girls ""across the narrow divide from a virgin ignorance to femininity,"" imagining this effort to be like ""restoring the beauty of an old ikon painting."" His enemy, Colonel Oleg Barsky, is determined to foster hostility towards Russia's Jews. Plotting to force Rubinchik to emigrate by making him look like a traitor, Barsky has the journalist's wife and children publicly harassed. He also sends officers to remote villages to extract evidence of Rubinchik's manipulation from the ""victims"" of his seductions. Furthermore, Barsky blackmails attorney Anna Evgenyevna to be his investigative prosecutor in the case by threatening to expose her affair with a Jewish man. What Barsky doesn't know is that Anna has warm memories of her evening as one of Rubinchik's virgins. Anna investigates Barsky, and what she uncovers about his past gives her a hold over the domineering KGB man. Although the reader is sometimes aware that this is a translation, it's so skillfully done that the author's voice remains strong. Altogether, it's an imaginative and engaging story. (Dec.) FYI: Topol emigrated to the U.S. 20 years ago from the Soviet Union. His book China Lane, a Russian Primary Colors, was the hottest-selling title in Russian in 1997.
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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