Friday, May 6, 2011
Review: A Tomb for Boris Davidovich by Danilo Kis
A Tomb for Boris Davidovich (1976) is a collection of seven short stories that are loosely connected together. The common thread of the stories is that they all have to do with the repression and corruption of the Soviet system. Kis' characters come from varying nationalities, religions, and backgrounds, but they all get caught up somehow in the political deception and betrayals of the USSR.
This is one of those books whose significance grows on me only after I've finished reading it. Some of the stories were confusing to me, with the causes and sequences of events seeming muddy when they should have been clear (I'm not sure if this is Kis' fault or the translator's). It shouldn't have been a hard read, but it occasionally was. Still, the stories were interesting. I haven't read much Soviet literature, and I found Kis' depictions of the repression, corruption, general back-stabbing, and psychological impact of the USSR fascinating, if not enjoyable. Like I said, though the book was, at times, frustrating to read, after finishing it I realize its importance as literature and deeper meaning as political commentary.
My copy of A Tomb for Boris Davidovich is the 1980 Penguin edition (translator: Duska Mikic-Mitchell), purchased for the princely sum of 25 cents from my local Habitat for Humanity thrift store. The book was originally published in 1976 and was first translated into English (by Mikic-Mitchell) in 1978.