Good Citizens Need Not Fear
By Maria Reva
A bureaucratic mistake erases a building and all its residents from government records, with tragicomic consequences.
1933 Invansk Street. An entire building that technically vanishes, thanks to a bureaucratic glitch that wipes it out, along with its residents, from municipal records. So begins Maria Reva’s “darkly hilarious” (Anthony Doerr) intertwined narratives, nine stories that span the chaotic years leading up to and immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union — and how the benighted denizens devise ingenious ways to survive and weather the official neglect of the increasingly powerless authorities.
In “Bone Music,” an agoraphobic recluse survives by selling contraband LPs, mapping the vinyl grooves of illegal Western records into stolen X-ray film. A delusional secret service agent in “Letter of Apology” becomes convinced he’s being covertly recruited to guard Lenin’s tomb, just as his parents, not seen since he was a small child, supposedly were. Weaving the narratives together is the unforgettable, chameleon-like Zaya: a cleft-lipped orphan in “Little Rabbit,” a beauty-pageant crasher in “Miss USSR,” a sadist-for-hire to the Eastern Bloc’s newly minted oligarchs in “Homecoming.”
Good Citizens Need Not Fear tacks from moments of intense paranoia to surprising tenderness and back again, exploring what it is to be an individual amid the roiling forces of history. Inspired by her and her family’s own experiences in Ukraine, Reva brings the black absurdism of early Shteyngart and the sly interconnectedness of Anthony Marra’s Tsar of Love and Techno to a “bang-on brilliant” (Miriam Toews) collection that is “fearless and thrilling” (Bret Anthony Johnston), and as clever as it is heartfelt.
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