The Free World

Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Free World
Baker & Taylor
Refusing the Kremlin's order to relocate to Israel, the Jewish Krasnansky family of 1978 Russia makes their way across Italy at the sides of thousands of other immigrants over the course of a culturally rich six months.

McMillan Palgrave
A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title

Summer, 1978. Brezhnev sits like a stone in the Kremlin, Israel and Egypt are inching towards peace, and in the bustling, polyglot streets of Rome, strange new creatures have appeared: Soviet Jews who have escaped to freedom through a crack in the Iron Curtain. Among the thousands who have landed in Italy to secure visas for new lives in the West are the members of the Krasnansky family — three generations of Russian Jews.

There is Samuil, an old Communist and Red Army veteran, who reluctantly leaves the country to which he has dedicated himself body and soul; Karl, his elder son, a man eager to embrace the opportunities emigration affords; Alec, his younger son, a carefree playboy for whom life has always been a game; and Polina, Alec's new wife, who has risked the most by breaking with her old family to join this new one. Together, they will spend six months in Rome — their way station and purgatory. They will immerse themselves in the carnival of emigration, in an Italy rife with love affairs and ruthless hustles, with dislocation and nostalgia, with the promise and peril of a new life. Through the unforgettable Krasnansky family, David Bezmozgis has created an intimate portrait of a tumultuous era.

Written in precise, musical prose, The Free World is a stunning debut novel, a heartfelt multigenerational saga of great historical scope and even greater human debth. Enlarging on the themes of aspiration and exile that infused his critically acclaimed first collection, Natasha and Other Stories, The Free World establishes Bezmozgis as one of our most mature and accomplished storytellers.

& Taylor

Refusing the Kremlin's order to relocate to Israel, the Jewish Krasnasnsky family of 1978 Russia makes their way across Italy at the sides of thousands of other immigrants over the course of a culturally rich six months. A first novel by the award-winning author of Natasha. 50,000 first printing.
Summer, 1978. Among the thousands of Soviet Jews who have landed in Italy to secure visas for new lives in the West are the members of the Krasnansky family-- three generations of Russian Jews. Together they will spend six months in Rome-- their way station and purgatory.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780374281403
Branch Call Number: FIC B
Characteristics: 356 p. ; 24 cm.


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Aug 23, 2013
  • ownedbydoxies rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Excellent depiction of a family group and others leaving Russia and heading for new lives in the 'free' world in the 1970s. Very readable, and I like how the characters are fleshed-out, behaving in the complex ways most humans are prone to. I'll look for more by this author.

Apr 04, 2013
  • inthestacks rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

The story of a family of Latvian Jews who have left the Soviet Union and are living in Rome temporarily as they await approval to immigrate to the West. Bezmozgis assumes a lot of prior knowledge about this forgotten episode in history. The novel is set in 1978, and during the 1970s, many Jews were trying to leave the Soviet Union for Israel, the United States, Canada and other western nations because of state-sponsored restrictions and persecutions. However, the Soviets were making it difficult for them to leave, further persecuting them for the applying to emigrate, dismissing them from their jobs, trying them on fallacious charges and sending them to the Gulag. The plight of the Soviet Jews became an international movement and no more so than in the United States where American Jews organized and petitioned politicians to put pressure on the Soviet government and allow Jews to leave the USSR. Bezmozgis does not provide this context to his novel. He peppers his story with the names of noted Zionists and other historical figures and events that many readers would not be familiar with. However, that said, this is still an intelligent immigration story, one family’s experience of having left everything they know for a future they have little certainty about.

Mar 25, 2013
  • agbookclub2 rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

This was an Angus Glen Book club title for 2012. The book was disappointing especially the ending or lack of an ending. We could not connect to the characters or overall like them.

May 02, 2012
  • uncommonreader rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

A Jewish family from Riga emigrates to the West via Rome. The novel recounts the time spent in Rome before the move to Canada of the three generations of this family. A little long but very humourous.

Dec 13, 2011
  • sathrens rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Hilariously funny; heartbreakingly sad - this is a wonderful book, my favourite of the year.

Dec 10, 2011
  • ser_library rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

although not a fac of fiction, i read every word to the end, following the characters and their histories.

i enjoyed the Roman ambience -- more than in The Imperfectionists

Nov 23, 2011
  • readingchick rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A surprisingly good read if a little slow in places.

Oct 16, 2011
  • Cdnbookworm rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Jul 04, 2011
  • ksoles rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

"My existence will be the same wherever we go." So asserts patriarch Samuil Krasnansky, a Red Army veteran who views emigration from Soviet-controlled Latvia not as a chance at freedom but as evidence of his own demise. David Bezmozgis sets his debut novel in Rome, a rest stop between two worlds, where Samuil, his wife, his sons and daughters-in-law, and his two grandchildren, await visas to travel to North America. Outsiders in their homeland, the family members now sit in limbo on the fringes of Italian society, juggling the hopes and the dangers inherent in "The Free World."

The novel contains much political detail: history surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution, the late 1970s status of the Soviet Union and allusions to peace talks between Egypt and Israel. Not, in my opinion, fodder for gripping fiction but Bezmozgis's focus and precise observations allow the story to flow unburdened. Even during moments of little action, when characters brood or reflect on the past, the book moves quickly and maintains the reader's interest.

Despite tinges of melodrama and the occasional skim-able chapter, "The Free World" provides a multi-faceted, genuine and unglorified version of the Jewish immigrant story.

Mar 19, 2011

Chatelaine Book Club recommendation April 2011: "The querolous Krasnansky family" flee the Soviet Union in the summer of 1978.


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