The Bindery hosts All the Sad Young Literary Men author Keith Gessen for his new novel A Terrible Country. With Keith in conversation will be The Millions' Lydia Kiesling. Please join us!
When Andrei Kaplan's older brother Dima insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. His girlfriend has stopped returning his text messages. His dissertation adviser is dubious about his job prospects. It's the summer of 2008, and his bank account is running dangerously low. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs. So Andrei sublets his room in Brooklyn, packs up his hockey stuff, and moves into the apartment that Stalin himself had given his grandmother, a woman who has outlived her husband and most of her friends. She survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia's violent capitalist transformation, during which she lost her beloved dacha. She welcomes Andrei into her home, even if she can't always remember who he is.
Andrei learns to navigate Putin's Moscow, still the city of his birth, but with more expensive coffee. He looks after his elderly--but surprisingly sharp!--grandmother, finds a place to play hockey, a café to send emails, and eventually some friends, including a beautiful young activist named Yulia. Over the course of the year, his grandmother's health declines and his feelings of dislocation from both Russia and America deepen. Andrei knows he must reckon with his future and make choices that will determine his life and fate. When he becomes entangled with a group of leftists, Andrei's politics and his allegiances are tested, and he is forced to come to terms with the Russian society he was born into and the American one he has enjoyed since he was a kid.
A wise, sensitive novel about Russia, exile, family, love, history and fate, A Terrible Country asks what you owe the place you were born, and what it owes you. Writing with grace and humor, Keith Gessen gives us a brilliant and mature novel that is sure to mark him as one of the most talented novelists of his generation.
"A cause for celebration: big-hearted, witty, warm, compulsively readable, earnest, funny, full of that kind of joyful sadness I associate with Russia and its writers." – George Saunders, Man Booker Prize-winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo
"Keith Gessen is one of my favorite writers and A Terrible Country is even better than I hoped. By turns sad, funny, bewildering, revelatory, and then sad again, it recreates the historical-psychological experience of returning, for twenty-first-century reasons, to a country one's parents left in the twentieth century. It's at once an old-fashioned novel about the interplay between generational roles, family fates, and political ideology, and a kind of global detective mystery about neoliberalism (plus a secret map of Moscow in terms of pickup hockey). Gessen is a master journalist and essayist, as well as a storyteller with a scary grasp on the human heartstrings, and A Terrible Country unites the personal and political as only the best novels do." – Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot and The Possessed
"A Terrible Country is an engaging and entertaining novel, full of humor and humility, and always after one thing--the truth of contemporary life. Gessen gives us the people of Moscow--businessmen, anarchists, grandmothers, dissidents, baristas, hockey goalies, prostitutes, and FSB agents--not as fanciful characters but with the full force of the real. His affectionate, clear-eyed portrait of one terrible country has plenty to teach us about our own." – Chad Harbach, author of The Art of Fielding
Keith Gessen is the author of All the Sad Young Literary Men and a founding editor of n+1. He is the editor of three nonfiction books and the translator or co-translator, from Russian, of a collection of short stories, a book of poems, and a work of oral history, Nobel Prize-winner Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl. A contributor to The New Yorker and The London Review of Books, Gessen teaches journalism at Columbia and lives in New York with his wife and son.
Lydia Kiesling is the editor of The Millions and the author of The Golden State, a novel publishing September from FSG/MCD. Her essays and criticism have appeared at outlets including The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Slate, and The New Yorker online, and have been recognized in Best American Essays 2016. She lives in San Francisco with her family. Author photo by Andria Lo.
RSVP appreciated but not required. If you cannot attend the event but would like to request a signed copy of A Terrible Country and/or any of Keith's books, order below and put your request in the comments field.
This is an all ages event. The bar opens at 7, event begins at 7:30pm.
Please note: this event will be at The Bindery, 1727 Haight.