The latest is In Putin’s Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’s Eleven Time Zones. Forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press in February 2019 this is a book of travel, politics and people. It is written together with Jeffrey Tayler after our almost two months journey — a few consecutive journeys to be precise — through Russia, from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka in spring and summer of 2017.
My first book, Small World, was a rendition of my seven-year stint in Princeton where I studied Comparative Literature. The book, an unhappy romance, is filled with Russian misery as well as angst common to those in graduate school. Thinking back, the novel was an attempt to pass the time while getting an academic degree. Given my grand family name, I was also learning to live a small life in a small New Jersey town. Being from Moscow, a city of ten plus million people, I didn’t grow up with knowledge of how to keep a polite smile while saying hello to the same person ten times a day. Acquiring just this skill was a challenge, and to better rehearse my newly desired “happy American” disposition I wrote Small World in both English and Russian. Its Russian version was published in Moscow in 2009, but very quickly went out of print. Likely due to its shamelessly corny opening:
Small World is a very small cafe in a very small American town. Every morning I come here, sit down at a little table next to the window and look at a very small street. Nothing ever happens, but I still look, so attentively and for such a long time, that the world around me starts expanding. It grows, filling with people and events. Finally it reaches the size of the universe. And then, I leave my little corner and go into this big world…
And the ending is even cornier…
My two other books are, as mentioned, on Vladimir Nabokov, both published in 2008.
Another book, The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind, was written for — instead of rather — my mother Julia. It is her story, but she was too discouraged by her Soviet life to actually write it. The timing of Spring 2014 has been ideal for me, although very sad for Ukraine and regrettable for Russia. The Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and its altogether efforts to keep Ukraine under its tight influence, with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, acting like a full-blown dictator rather than an enlightened autocrat as he had for the last decade, has proven my points. My book’s pessimistic conclusion is about Russia’s inability to change its modus operandi. Our repeated use of force, oppression and ideals of centralized state coupled with mammoth inferiority complex which only matches its gargantuan size bode badly for our ability to move forward.
My Other Publications: