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Every Hunter Wants to Know: A Leningrad Life, by Mikhail Iossel

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Every Hunter Wants to Know: A Leningrad Life, by Mikhail Iossel

Iossel - Every Hunter - Final Cover.jpg
Iossel - Every Hunter - Final Cover.jpg

Every Hunter Wants to Know: A Leningrad Life, by Mikhail Iossel

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Set against the backdrop of Leningrad, this novel centers around the life of precocious loner Yevgeny Litovtsev.


From Publishers Weekly

In these 10 stories Soviet emigre Iossel, recently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, sketches his days first as a child of the city known as "the Venice of the North" and later as an arrival in the seductive and disturbing "Abroad." Yevgeny ("Zheka") Litovtsev, the author's fictional counterpart, observes his relatives, friends, neighbors and countrymen with an eye so calm that it's a shock when the occasional reminder of the pre- glasnost era intrudes, as in "Red Square"--when, visiting Lenin's Tombsic with his grandfather, Zheka sees that an encounter with a man wearing "a military overcoat with sky bluesic four-star colonel's shoulder straps and a tall Astrakhan hat" has struck fear into his grandfather's heart. It's another shock, a pleasant one, to recognize how successfully Iossel has embraced his new language. Rarely does a non-native speaker deliver intimate glimpses of faraway delights and nightmares in such vigorous English. The title story, recalling a mushroom hunt in a rugged forest ("We were Jewish. Jewish people in Russia usually stay away from the woods"), takes its name from a mnemonic device: in Russian, the first letters of Every Hunter Wants to Know Where the Pheasant's Hiding are also the first letters of the colors of the rainbow. 
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A promising first collection of stories in English by recent Russian ‚migr‚ Iossel that together form an impressionistic picture of growing up in an increasingly cynical and malfunctioning Soviet Union. ``Beyond the Pale'' introduces the narrator, young Jewish dissenter Yevgheny Litovtsev, or Zheka, living in Leningrad and forced to do demeaning jobs while he struggles to write. In the title story, he recalls his reactions to Yuri Gagarin's space flight, when those ``who were squeezed to death in the happy crowd of Gagarin's great victory were happier than they were ever likely to be if they kept on living.'' These thoughts are expanded on through Yevgheny's bittersweet memories of gathering mushrooms in the countryside as a six-year-old, when all things were possible and ``Russia was joyous and looked eternal beyond the window.'' Each subsequent story chronicles the character's growing disillusionment with the system, itself deteriorating but nonetheless intrusive and punitive. He unwittingly humiliates his loyal communist grandfather (``Red Square'') by loudly accusing him of not really loving Lenin; then spends a feckless college summer as a train conductor (``Wings''), and, later, in ``Bolgoye'' (chosen for the Best American Short Stories 1991), recalls the emotionally confused days before he was finally granted an exit visa. The last piece (``Insomnia'') is a claustrophobic but affecting chronicle of what happens to a writer who's suddenly thrust into an alien culture where his talents are worthless. Like Nabokov, Iossel has brilliantly mastered English, but these stories, accomplished as they are, are marred by the ever- present narrator, whose legitimately intense emotions and responses need some leavening, some other perspective. Still, a notable debut. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


Mikhail Iossel was born in Leningrad in 1955 and came to the United States in 1986. One of his stories was included in "The Best American Short Stories 1991". This collection was written in English.