Probably best known for his recent novel, “The Burn,” Vassily Aksyonov was forced to emigrate from the Soviet Union in 1979 after attempting to publish a literary anthology free of censorship.
“In Search of Melancholy Baby,” a work of nonfiction, records Aksyonov’s observations of life in the United States interspersed with memories of his past.
“As an ‘almost American’ I see more than the bright windows of my new home,” he writes, “I see its mildewed corners as well. I trust that if I point them out my new country won’t throw me out.” And indeed Aksyonov takes fewer risks in this work.
But some of his sharpness still emerges in unexpected places, particularly when writing about his own teaching experience. “The writer is as common on American campuses as the cocker spaniel in the American home. Any school worth its prestige needs one or even two of them.” And about his own current position teaching at Goucher College in Maryland, he writes: “Our Goucher girls do not differ too greatly from the young ladies who attended the liberal Smolny Institute for Daughters of the Nobility before the revolution.”