cover image Ours: A Russian Family Album

Ours: A Russian Family Album

Sergei Dovlatov. Grove/Atlantic, $15.95 (135pp) ISBN 978-1-55584-281-9

Dovlatov, who fled the Soviet Union in 1978 and now lives in New York, is a worthy successor to the great Russian satirists whose tradition he enlarges. Through 13 captivating, sharp, funny vignettes of family members, he paints an ironic picture of life in the Soviet Union from the reign of Stalin to the present day. With an endless fund of anecdote, Dovlatov ( The Zone ; The Compromise ) tells hair-raising, hilarious stories, such as how he became a labor-camp guard assigned to watch over his own cousin, and the wildly improbable way he met his wife. He is, at times, very quotable. On himself in youth: ``Masquerading as an unrecognized genius somehow made existence easier.'' On social classes: ``Apparently, people at the bottom of the social ladder don't much care for others like themselves: they prefer to love the masters.'' (Mar.)