The Goose Fritz
--The Wall Street Journal
"Lebedev's characters seek ways to cut the umbilical cord with the past."
--Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
This revelatory novel shows why Karl Ove Knausgaard has likened its celebrated Russian author to an "indomitable ... animal that won't let go of something when it gets its teeth into it." The book tells the story of a young Russian named Kirill, the sole survivor of a once numerous clan of German origin, who delves relentlessly into the unresolved past. His ancestor, Balthasar Schwerdt, migrated to the Russian Empire in the early 1800s, bringing with him the practice of alternative medicine and becoming captive to an erratic nobleman who had supplied dwarves, hunchbacks from Africa, and magicians to entertain Catherine the Great. Kirill's investigation takes us through centuries of turmoil during which none of the German's nine children or their descendants can escape their adoptive country's cruel fate. Intent on uncovering buried mysteries, Kirill searches archives and cemeteries across Europe, while pressing witnesses for keys to understanding. The Goose Fritz illuminates both personal and political history in a passion-filled family saga about an often confounding country that has long fascinated the world.
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About the Author
Not since Alexander Solzhenitsyn has Russia had a writer as obsessed as Sergei Lebedev with that country's history or the traces it has left on the collective consciousness ... The best of Russia's younger generation of writers.
--The New York Review of Books
Outstanding ... Lebedev muses in Tolstoyan fashion about 'the energy flow of history, ' by which the actions of distant ancestors can fix the destinies of people hundreds of years later. Antonina W. Bouis has once again delivered a translation of determined, adamantine beauty.
--The Wall Street Journal
The Goose Fritz is Lebedev's third novel after The Year of the Comet and Oblivion. All three are coming-of-age stories driven by sharp awakenings and have been beautifully translated from Russian into English by Antonina W. Bouis. Lebedev's latest is his most ambitious, tackling a huge swath of Russian history -- from the beginning of the 19th century up to the present day -- while never letting its pacy, compelling narrative flag ... brave and unflinching.
--The Financial Times
Masterly ... Readers get a palpable sense of history's weight and also of its loss ... Another inspiring Lebedev work.
Lebedev's prose is lyrical as a rule: cast in assonant patterns, attentive to rhythmic weight, responsive to the habits and desires of language. Antonina W. Bouis's translation is both faithful and inspired, spinning the story out in a tirelessly beautiful English.
--The Los Angeles Review of Books
Fascinating ... An evocative excursion across more than a century, The Goose Fritz provokes consideration of national identity and the role it plays in sustaining an individual.
Memorably undermine(s) the clichés of the multigenerational family saga. Lebedev's novel abounds with the sweep of history, but by filtering the experience of several generations through the perspective of one deeply introverted character, he achieves a decidedly intimate take on the form. Hanging over the proceedings is a question of national identity, which adds another dimension to the narrative."
--Words Without Borders
I met Sergei Lebedev ... There was something indomitable about him that made me think about an animal that won't let go of something when it gets its teeth into it. Lebedev's books dealt with history -- it lay like a shadow over everything he wrote -- and the fact that its presence was so powerful suggested that the conflicts and tensions inherent in it were still unresolved, still had a bearing on Russian society in obscure yet palpable ways.
--Karl Ove Knausgaard, The New York Times Magazine
An overwhelming historical and literary panorama.
Lebedev is now at the height of his literary powers ... He compares the witch hunt on the German-speaking citizens of Russia during the First World War with the mutual suspicions of the Stalinist era and the persecution of dissidents in today's Russia.
--Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Focuses on the hatred of outsiders, the cruel relief strategies of a frightened society ... An uncompromising critic of the Russian government ... Lebedev sees the mounting persecution of a minority not only as a consequence but almost as an inherent condition of totalitarianism.
The hero of the novel, Kirill, enters a new world where he is confronted with shocking knowledge. It's almost as if alongside the laws of physics there is also the enigmatic force of history, the gravitation of the living past ... Lebedev strives to give expression to the unspeakable, to write about the violence, the war and the terror of Russia's recent past. Lebedev tells the story in lush and melancholy verbal imagery.