"Genis cuts through the artificial nature that man has built around himself with a pulsating stream of bursts. It is such energy you forget for a moment that language is a grandchild of artificial rather than real nature. Moreover, Genis has positioned himself to see Russia from America and America from Russia, and all it via China." Milorad PAVIC
"Genis is deservedly regarded as one of the leading Russian literary critics, as well as an expert on cultural issues, enjoying in today's Russia the same kind of reputation that Roland Barthes had in France in the 1960s and 70s." Lev LOSEFF, poet, professor of Dartmouth College
"Genis looks at culture as a set of rituals... His texts are an attempt to reveal codes and catchwords and show to us in which particular ritual we are participating, willingly or unwillingly." Mikhail EPSTEIN
"Genis, a brilliant essayist and literary critic, invariably surprises the reader with his inexhaustible wit and paradoxical observations, expressed in delightfully aphoristic language." EX LIBRIS
One of the best essayists writing in Russian today, Alexander Genis inhabits that stimulating borderland between the civilizations of Russia and America, created by the "great migration."
Born in 1953 in Soviet Latvia, Genis emigrated in 1977 to the United States. There he teamed with Peter Vail to write such contemporary classics as Native Tongue, a new look at Russian literature; Paradise Lost: Russian Cuisine in Exile; Americana, reflections on Russian-American cross-cultural phenomena, and Inside the Soviet Mind, aphoristic reminiscences of the Soviet 1960s.
Says Genis: "Soviet rule began 36 years before I was born and ended 36 years after with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although I was born in the middle of this epoch, I feel less a witness to it than a refugee from it. My life has always consisted of personal events, nothing historical. Which is why I dare to review the past. I am a slave to the common-sense narrative."
Since 1990, Genis has been writing on his own. His books include Russian Postmodernism, new perspectives on post-Soviet culture; Dovlatov and Environs, literary nonfiction (the book was short-listed for the Russian Booker Prize in 1999); Tower of Babel, a collection of cultural studies on the fin de siecle state of the world; USA from A to Y, and Ivan Petrovich is Dead, a collection of essays published over the last ten years.
In Russia Genis is widely popular as a presenter of the daily cultural program on Radio Liberty, "Above the Barriers" as well as a prolific contributor to leading literary journals. All of his books are "intellectual bestsellers."
Each of the chapters in the present collection represents an existing book or manuscript in Russian.
"The View from the Window" is taken from a series of comparative cultural studies of America and Russia at the end of the 20th century; "Red Bread" is an excerpt from the Culinary History of Soviet Russia; "USA from A to Y" comes from Genis's cultural dictionary of America of the same name; "Brodsky in New York" belongs to a series on contemporary Russian and world literature; and "Darkness and Silence", a poem-essay combining Eastern and Western perceptions of life, was published on its own as a richly illustrated edition.
These literary pieces by one of Russia's foremost essayists reflect the author's biculturalism - Russian and American civilizations are compared in their various manifestations. Genis is a shrewd and observant critic. His essays are dynamic, informative, and a joy to read.