The Dissident

Farrar. Jun. 2023. 432p. ISBN 9781250208590. $28. THRILLER
Nonfiction and fiction author Goldberg (The Yid was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature) eschews run-of-the-mill Cold War spy novel tropes in this darkly comic tale. Viktor Morov, a Jewish refusenik stuck in Moscow, is fruitlessly waiting for the Soviet government to approve his application to emigrate to Israel. On the evening of his wedding in January 1976, he stumbles upon the horrific scene of two gay men axed to death in their bed. Fleeing does Viktor little good; he’s soon confronted by his secret KGB “curator,” who tells him he has two options: take the blame for the murders or find the killer before a diplomatic visit by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger eight days away. There begins the journey that wraps up Viktor, his new bride Oksana, and a clutch of their Jewish intelligentsia friends in a time-ticking quest to find the killer. Goldberg follows his retinue of vivid characters as they drink vodka to excess, soliloquize on the joys of Bulgakov, and consider the state of the Soviet society to which the Jewish refuseniks say “no.”
VERDICT A refreshing and literary take on the genre that appeals to the intellect as well as the pulse.
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