The Jew Who Was Ukrainian
By Alexander Motyl
Language: English Softcover
Publisher: Cervena Barva Press
5 7/8"W x 8 7/8"H
Member Price: $14.40
Alexander J. Motyl is a writer, painter, and professor. He is the author of four novels, Whiskey Priest, Who Killed Andrei Warhol, Flippancy, and The Jew Who Was Ukrainian; his poems have appeared in Counterexample Poetics, Istanbul Literary Review, Orion Headless, The Battered Suitcase, Red River Review, and New York Quarterly. Motyl’s artwork has been exhibited in solo and group shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto. He teaches at Rutgers University-Newark and lives in New York.
The Jew Who Was Ukrainian is a blackly comedic, anti-historical, and absurdist novel about a tortured Jewish-Ukrainian man who struggles vainly to find meaning at the intersection of Hitler’s Holocaust and Stalin’s Gulag. The hero of this preposterous story is Volodymyr Frauenzimmer, a man with a preposterous name and a preposterous past. His Ukrainian mother was a Nazi concentration camp guard and hates Jews. His Jewish father was a Stalinist butcher and hates Ukrainians. Poor Volodymyr doesn’t know how to cope with his dreadful past until he discovers the redeeming power of hatred and resolves to kill the Exceptionally Great Leader of Mother Russia—the fish-eyed Pitoon, a half-Russian, half-German dictator whose name happens to “rhyme with spittoon.” In attempting to carry out his plot, the “Jew who was Ukrainian” consorts with long-dead Jewish and Ukrainian assassins and their victims, the owner of the fashionable Gulag restaurant in Moscow, and a cast of bizarre characters—including Lenin.
The Jew Who Was Ukrainian combines a variety of genres: third-person narrative, first-person monologues, play-like dialogues, and excerpts from magazine accounts.
Praise for The Jew Who Was Ukrainian
The Jew Who Was Ukrainian is a devilishly witty intellectual farce in which historical meditation faces off with madcap lampoons of past and present political rogues and assassins. Motyl’s wildly imaginative riff on a century of East European history is a must read. The Moral of the Popcorn reigns!
—Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Russian Literature, Barnard College
This hilarious and poignant anti-historical novel is a vertiginous journey through the Russian Revolution, Stalin’s purges, Nazi concentration camps, underground anarchist gatherings, and the KGB network. A great master of tragicomedy, Alexander Motyl shows with eminent irony that twentieth-century history was funnier than Joyce imagined and much more horrible than Orwell prefigured. His main character, the laughable Volodymyr Frauenzimmer, works through his excruciating guilt, split hence irreconcilable identity, and obfuscating desire to settle accounts with history. Pondering the question of whether to kill or not to kill the next Russian dictator, Volodymyr transcends the border of the real and enters a realm where infamous political terrorists and their famous victims come together to discuss the self-destructive power of hatred. This book is a cold shower for anybody who still thinks you can change history and passionate encouragement for all those confident that you can do nothing about it.
—Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern Associate Professor in Jewish History, Northwestern University
Only Alexander Motyl could conjure up this delightful mixture of ghoulish, existential madcappery with insightful, satirical brilliance. This is a fantasy for the adventuresome, geopolitical reader who’s eager to have his mind bent and tickled.
—Jed Feuer Composer, New York City
Candide meets The Terminator—in the funhouse of history, ethnic prejudice, ethics… and the dysfunctional family. An intellectual thriller (camps and assassins included).
—George G. Grabowicz Professor of Ukrainian Literature, Harvard University
Alexander Motyl is a master of seduction by the preposterous.
—Myrna Kostash Writer, Edmonton, Canada