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Boston symposium to celebrate first U.S. publication of emblematic refusenik novel

Source: Meduza

Doctor Levitin, a 1980 novel by David Shrayer-Petrov, is a literary tribute to the experiences of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews who were denied permission to emigrate from the USSR and simultaneously faced years of persecution for their desire to leave. Unpublishable in Russia until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the novel has since been released in three separate Russian editions. It is now being published in English translation for the first time thanks to Maxim D. Shrayer and his co-translators, Arna B. Bronstein and Aleksandra Fleszar.

To celebrate the first U.S. publication of Doctor Levitin, Boston College will hold what organizers say is “[the] first ever symposium to celebrate and explore the literary, cultural and historical legacy of the refusenik movement.” The symposium will take place on Tuesday, April 16, from 4:00 to 7:00 PM.

While all three translators of Doctor Levitin are scholars of Russian Jewish culture, Shrayer is also Shrayer-Petrov’s son. Like many eventual Russian-Americans, he spent almost a decade in “refuseniks’ limbo” with his family before they received permission to emigrate to the United States. Reflecting on the history of his father’s novel, Shrayer said, “Its publication in English translation bears special significance not only because it fills a gap in our understanding of modern Jewish history and culture. It also transforms the refuseniks’ collective experience into an American story.”

The cover of the U.S. edition “Doctor Levitin” by David Shrayer-Petrov.
Wayne State University Press / Courtesy of Maxim D. Shrayer