At the outset of her review today in Tablet Magazine of Nadia Kalman’s debut novel, The Cosmopolitans, Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry acknowledges that Kalman is not exactly the first Jewish American from the FSU—the former Soviet Union—to write a humorous, whimsical novel about the alternate charms and dangers of dis- and relocation.
But in this particular instance, Ivry does find something, if not completely, at least a little bit different. “It is that kind of whimsical choice, a tonal shift, which sets her apart,” Ivry argues of Kalman. “Brezhnev-like dybbuks and talking hankies suggest that Kalman, with her penchant for the charmingly absurd, owes a debt more to the contemporary likes of Etgar Keret in stories like “Fatso,” for instance, than to S. An-sky, so often credited with introducing dybbuks into literature, or even than to the other writers in her ethnic peer group.”
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.