Yom Kippur in Amsterdam: Stories

Overview

Whether set in Maxim Shrayer's native Russia or in North America and Western Europe, the eight stories in this collection explore emotionally intricate relationships that cross traditional boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and culture. Tracing the lives, obsessions, and aspirations of Jewish-Russian immigrants, these poignant, humorous, and tender stories create an expansive portrait of individuals struggling to come to terms with ghosts of their European pasts while simultaneously seeking to build new lives in ...

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Overview

Whether set in Maxim Shrayer's native Russia or in North America and Western Europe, the eight stories in this collection explore emotionally intricate relationships that cross traditional boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and culture. Tracing the lives, obsessions, and aspirations of Jewish-Russian immigrants, these poignant, humorous, and tender stories create an expansive portrait of individuals struggling to come to terms with ghosts of their European pasts while simultaneously seeking to build new lives in their American present. The title story follows Jake Glaz, a young Jewish man apprehensive about intermarriage to a Catholic woman. After realizing Erin will not convert, Jake leaves the United States to spend Yom Kippur in Amsterdam, "a beautiful place for a Jew to atone." In "Sonetchka," a literary scholar and his former Moscow girlfriend reunite in her suburban Connecticut apartment. As they reminisce about their Soviet youth and quietly admire each other's professional successes, both wrestle with the curious mix of prosperity, loneliness, and insecurity that defines their lives in the United States. Yom Kippur in Amsterdam takes the immigrant narrative into the twenty-first century. Emerging from the tradition of Isaac Babel, Vladimir Nabokov, and Isaac Bachevis Singer, Shrayer's vibrant literary voice significantly contributes to the evolution of Jewish writing in America. Maxim D. Shrayer is professor of Russian and English and chair of the Department of Slavic and Eastern Languages at Boston College. Among his books are The World of Nabokov's Stories and Russian Poet/Soviet Jew and the literary memoir Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration. A bilingual authorand translator, Shrayer won the National Jewish Book Award for the two-volume Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
In this debut collection of short stories, Maxim Shrayer investigates shades of Russian-Jewish identity and experience in America. His felicitous prose focuses on the lives of Russian immigrants who have made a life here, not the trials and tribulations of those just arrived. Maxim Shrayer joins a list of Russian-born authors enriching American Jewish fiction with stories and novels…. Recommended for all fiction collections.
The Jewish Advocate
Throughout "Yom Kippur in Amsterdam," Maxim D. Shrayer gives a modern Jewish twist to Shakespeare's dictum, "To thine own self be true."

This recently published collection of short stories depicts the romantic struggles of Jewish-American immigrants from the former Soviet Union in terms of identity and intermarriage. Yet the book avoids polemics. Instead, it beckons the reader to conversation like an open café.

Publishers Weekly
Professor and memoirist Shrayer (Waiting for America) delivers eight deliberate stories about educated, accomplished Russians who have uneasily settled in America. Many of these tales viscerally reveal the inability to shed one’s past, as in “Sonetchka,” named for the upwardly mobile émigrée protagonist who has attained financial success but has left her Russian husband, Igor, to fall into drunkenness, despair and, possibly, vengeance against her. “The Afterlove” is a recollection of postwar first love conjured by Pavel Lidin, who encountered a mermaid at a summer lake camp when he was 13 and later married his best friend’s pregnant girlfriend. In two stories, the Jewish Russian protagonist endures a breakup with a gentile woman: in “The Disappearance of Zalman,” Mark loses his girlfriend once she meets his yeshiva tutor and is smitten by his “passionate” Jewish nature, while in the title story, a businessman in Amsterdam, feeling guilty for having told his fiancée that he wants a Jewish wife, finds atonement in the city of easy morals. The stories are competently written and soundly constructed, though readers may feel they’ve read them before. (Oct.)
Booklist
This intricate, thoughtful collection explores the inexorable complexities of relationships and religion . . . .
Shrayer's eight delicate stories trace his characters' diverse struggles against the limits of tradition and culture.
The Boston College Chronicle
The eight stories in Yom Kippur focus on characters with intricate and emotional relationships that cross traditional boundaries of ethnicity, religion and culture.
The Jewish Week
A collection of stories, by Maxim Shrayer, "Yom Kippur in Amsterdam" follows the efforts of Russian Jewish immigrants to come to terms with their pasts as they try to build new lives in America....His writing has qualities of humor, soulfulness and insight.
The Midwest Book Review
With simple prose and fascinating characters, and a positive message, "Yom Kippur in Amsterdam" is a fine collection of short stories.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815609186
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2009
  • Pages: 141
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Maxim D. Shrayer is professor of Russian and English and chair of the Department of Slavic and Eastern Languages at Boston College. Among his books are The World of Nabokov's Stories and Russian Poet/Soviet Jew and the literary memoir Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration. A bilingual author and translator, Shrayer won the National Jewish Book Award for the two-volume Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature.

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Table of Contents

The Disappearance of Zalman 1

Trout Fishing in Virginia 19

Sonetchka 48

The Afterlove 58

Last August in Biarritz 81

A Sunday Walk to the Arboretum 98

Horse Country 111

Yom Kippur in Amsterdam 125

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