The acclaimed short story and novella collection by “a virtuoso of the dismal comedy of Soviet life”—and the basis for the HBO film PU-239 (The New York Times).
Ken Kalfus traverses a century of Russian history in tales that range from hair-raising to comic to fabulous. The astonishing title story follows a doomed nuclear power plant worker as he attempts to hawk plutonium in Moscow’s black market. In “Budyonnovsk,” a young man hopes that the takeover of his town by Chechen rebels will somehow save his marriage.
Set in the 1920s, “Birobidzhan” is the bittersweet story of a Jewish couple journeying to the Soviet Far East, where they intend to establish the modern world’s first Jewish state. The novella, “Peredelkino,” which closes the book, traces the fortunes of a 1960s literary apparatchik whose romantic intrigues inadvertently become political. In these and other stories, Kalfus captures the famously enigmatic Russian psyche.
A PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist