The Suitcase

Sergei Dovlatov, Author Grove/Atlantic $16.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1246-0
Several decades after emigrating from the Soviet Union, the author discovered the battered suitcase he had brought with him gathering dust at the back of a closet. Rummaging through its contents provided the inspiration for this engaging collection of stories in which Dovlatov acts as narrator. All are delivered with an exquisite sense of timing, and ironic humor counterpoints the seriousness of their united theme: the woeful failing of Soviet socialism. ``The Finnish Crepe Socks'' describes his partly successful attempt to become a black market racketeer while at college. In ``A Decent Double-Breasted Suit,'' Dovlatov, by now a journalist, is approached by the KGB to spy on a Swedish writer. Regarding the whole thing as a lark, Dovlatov is willing to comply, but for a price--a new suit. The Swede is expelled, which gives the narrative a bittersweet twist. The most poignant story, ``A Poplin Shirt,'' frankly examines the author's troubled relationship with his wife and her decision to leave Russia without him (he subsequently emigrated in 1978). A subtle tension underlies Dovlatov's writing, for although he now seems to regard his youthful scrapes with a somewhat jaundiced eye, his longing for his mother country is palpable. This slim volume of interconnected tales, called a novel by the publisher, is a companion to Dovlatov's similarly semi-autobiographical The Compromise and Ours. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
Paperback - 136 pages - 978-1-58243-733-0
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-1-84749-178-7
Open Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-58243-883-2
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