STRANDED: Soviet Jews’ Long Journey into the Free World

A Reading and Conversation with David Bezmozgis, author of Natasha and The Free World


David Bezmozgis

On April 24, David Bezmozgis, author of The Free World and Natasha and Other Stories, read and discussed his works at Brandeis University. The author's visit was part of a cultural identity project envisioned by a BGI fellow, Ira Krakhman, earning degrees at the Hornstein Program for Jewish Professional Leadership and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.

As a Soviet-born Jewish immigrant, Ira sought to bring the conversation of Russian American Diaspora experience to the broader audience. Drawing on first-hand immigration experience, Bezmozgis's fiction delves into the little known story of the Soviet Jews' passage through the Iron Curtain.

Bezmozgis belongs to an emergent generation of Russian-speaking, English-writing authors to explore their Jewish heritage from this unique cultural vantage. His work has earned numerous accolades including his listing in The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 issue,  celebrating the twenty most promising fiction writers under the age of forty. The Brandeis community showed genuine interest through lively attendance and thoughtful questions. Several Brandeis courses this semester incorporated Bezmozgis's work, suggesting a growing interest in Russian Jewish history. Whether this interest ever captures mainstream is yet to be seen. What was clear is how meaningful this evening was to Ira who opened the night with words of gratitude to Bezmozgis for tracing her "people's" journey to the juncture of Russian, American, Jewish worlds.

Presented by the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry

Cosponsored by the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry, Russian Studies Program, Creative Writing, and the Brandeis Russian Club.