In a Land Without Dogs the Cats Learn To Bark

House of Anansi. Feb. 2023. 424p. ISBN 9781487004163. pap. $18.99. F
DEBUT Award-winning Canadian playwright Garfinkel (House of Many Tongues) fuses Georgian arts, politics, and history into a riveting thriller. With the 2003 Rose Revolution as its flickering nucleus, this ambitious novel delves into events in the Republic of Georgia. Energized by passions for power, vengeance, and that old black magic called love, a platoon of colorful characters battles Soviet dominion and old traditions. Satire, double identity, double-crosses, pleasure, and violent death characterize the plot of this exploration of loyalty, conscience, and hope. The book opens with high jinks at Moscow University in 1974, as an American joins Georgian students in a subversive literary collective. It attracts the KGB but its target, Anna Litvak, the group’s femme fatale, disappears. Eventually just as the USSR is collapsing, she arrives in Tbilisi under a new identity as a pro-democracy activist. Her two adult children, having never met, emerge in Georgia to carry on her legacy, with astonishing results.
VERDICT Twenty years in the making, this saga alludes to the romantic work of Lermontov while also doing a great reprise of the jazz scene in Tbilisi. Compelling notes of Keith Gessen, Gary Shteyngart, and Jonathan Safran Foer will resonate for readers keeping up with Soviet absurdities in ex-USSR states.
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