The Free World- Reviews

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"Bezmozgis proves why he was recently proclaimed one of The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40; this is mellifluous, utterly captivating writing, and you’ll live with the Krasnansky family as if it were your own."
— LIBRARY JOURNAL (STARRED REVIEW)

"Bezmozgis makes good on the promise of his celebrated first book, Natasha and Other Stories (2004), in his spectacular first novel. Sharply funny and fast-paced, yet splendidly saturated with intriguing psychological nuance and caustic social commentary."

— BOOKLIST (STARRED REVIEW)

“Self-assured, elegant, and perceptive. . . [Bezmozgis] has created an unflinchingly honest, evenhanded and multilayered retelling of the Jewish immigrant story that steadfastly refuses to sentimentalize or malign the Old World or the New. Sholem Aleichem might well feel proud. And perhaps so too might Philip Roth and Leonard Michaels.”

— ADAM LANGER, THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Bezmozgis overturns our cliched expectations of immigrant idealism . . . Strikingly, he never pretends that his confused, self-interested characters are admirable, virtuous or even likable, but he respects them nonetheless. His book pays tribute to their tenacity and to their sometimes accidental courage . . . Bezmozgis laces even his darkest humor with pathos. While his depictions don’t flatter his subjects, they honor them by conveying each person’s individual history, motivations and truth.”

— LIESL SCHILLINGER, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW


“The linked stories of David Bezmozgis’s acclaimed debut collection, Natasha (2004), measured a young Latvian Jew’s life spent as a foreigner in a foreign land—North America—and sketched an ever widening gulf between history and tradition and the immigrant’s Western experience. His perceptive and engaging first novel, The Free World, is anchored a few years earlier than Natasha, in 1978 and records the Krasnansky family’s existence in transit—no longer in the Soviet Union but not yet at its final destination.”

— TIME


“David Bezmozgis’s debut story collection Natasha, met with the sort of critical reception that even grandiose adolescents are too realistic to expect . . . More recently, The New Yorker included him on the roster every young writer dreams about: its 20 under 40 list, in June 2010. If that final accolade seemed a little much last summer—six years after the release of Bezmozgis’ only book-length work—his new novel, The Free World, makes it seem prescient.”

— SLATE

 

"David Bezmozgis knows precisely what his characters would do and feel … He understands their injuries and rages, their jokes, their regrets and compulsions. And he portrays them with loyalty, respect, and a fierce determination not to dilute or artificially sweeten their strong and bitter stories."

— FRAncine prose, the new york review of books


“What makes Bezmozgis such a joy to read is his sincerity of tone, his seemingly bottomless empathy. Irony and black humor are inevitable characteristics of prose by writers from the former Soviet Union; they are ingrained in our literature, our very worldview. As young immigrant writers, our knowledge of our community benefits from both an insider’s and outsider’s perspective, but the danger of this observational stance is that potential to turn on our characters, make them comical at the expense of their humanity. Bezmozgis never falls into this trap. His loyalties lie staunchly with his creations, and the absurdities he points out are deeply funny, yet filtered through a mature wisdom.”

— THE FORWARD


“Thought-provoking . . . powerfully realized, absorbing, and old-fashioned in satisfying ways.”

— THE BOSTON GLOBE


“Bezmozgis’s keen sensitivity and ability to render human frailty is exquisite. In its most successful moments, The Free World not only localizes the grand drama of shifting, global ideologies but also binds the allegorical to relatable human emotions.”

— TIME OUT NEW YORK (4 OUT OF 5 STARS)


“[The Free World’s] strength is in the language. Unlike the crisp, tidy prose of Natasha, written in the detached candor of the teenage narrator, the voices of The Free World speak a new Frankenstein tongue, its seams purposefully showing. Though written in English, the dialogue has the distinct rhythm and tone of Russian that has been translated, almost word-for-word, without an interpreter’s laborious task of adjusting for context. As a storytelling device, it’s perfect; it immerses the reader in the Krasnansky’s household and, lest he forget, reminds him that the place he has entered is very Russian—not Russians among Americans, as he may be used to, or even Russians among Italians.”

— THE NEW YORK OBSERVER


“In the past decade, a handful of writers have added compelling twists to the classic immigration novel, adding new and unexpected layers to tales of newcomers in new lands. Jeffrey Eugenides, for example, wrote about a hermaphrodite immigrant in Middlesex; in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the protagonist had a fantastic imagination and used an unexpected language infused with Spanish and video game slang. Now comes David Bezmozgis’s The Free World, an immigration novel in which the characters don’t actually immigrate . . . Each person in the rambling Krasnansky clan is explored in detail and with keen insight, which Bezmozgis achieves with dazzling manipulations of point-of-view.”

— BOOKFORUM

 

"There is a lust for life imbuing his prose – the jokes, the descriptions of faces and kisses and streets and laughter, the sprinkles of Italian, Yiddish and Latvian – making it wonderfully uplifting. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Bezmozgis is one of the most assured new Jewish writers of the century so far."

— THE TIMES (UK)

"David Bezmozgis projects a sense of ease that is very rare in first novels; he does everything well."

— TELEGRAPH (UK)


"Terrific … In bringing the tribulations of the Krasnanskys in their Roman limbo so vividly to life, Bezmozgis has written a novel that succeeds admirably in combining comic brilliance with a poignant portrait of a family trapped between two worlds."

— SUNDAY TIMES (UK)


"Heavy with the consciousness of time, the inevitability of crises. Bezmozgis has the knack of ending scenes, chapters, especially, at the perfect reverberant moment, plangent or ironic."

— THE GUARDIAN (UK)


"Colourful, sharply funny and deeply moving."

— FINANCIAL TIMES


 "Delivered in an understated style which can accommodate serious subtext as well as ironical humour … His portraits of the family circle are neatly rendered and compassionate … There is no doubt Bezmozgis remains a writer worth monitoring."

— INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY (UK)


"Alternately comic, sharp and sombre … it’s impossible not to be caught up in the tangled web of its unforgettable case."

— DAILY MAIL (UK)

 

“A delicious drama of ambivalence and excitement. . . . The vigour of the book’s characters is achieved in the remarkable way Bezmozgis puts words together.”

— Maclean's

 

 “Bezmozgis has a keen eye for absurdity, which is a delight for the reader. . . . A brisk, shrewd, multi-faceted tale.”

— national post (canada)

 

 “Bezmozgis' tale of one clan’s extended layover in Rome and its outskirts is laced with cultural and historical ironies, dark comedy, heartbreak and outbursts of violence.”

— toronto life

 

"What makes this novel great is ultimately not really story or voice, but Bezmozgis’s tender, trenchant mastery of the idiom of the absurd. For him, absurdism is neither a carnival, a lark nor anything so reductive as an expression of perverse meaninglessness. He comprehends something altogether more shaded, more complex – perhaps like what Graham Greene had in mind when he wrote, 'Nothing is ineluctable. Life has surprises. Life is absurd. Because it’s absurd there is always hope.'”

— The Globe and Mail

 

"Bezmozgis is unquestionably one of the star writers of his generation. He not only grapples with an important modern story, he does so with undeniable authenticity and intelligence."

— quill & quire

 

"[Bezmozgis] extracts a huge range of feeling and tonality from [his] characters − sarcasm, slapstick comedy, weary irony, sexual ecstasy, exasperation − and yet his prose is smooth, unwaveringly plain and beautiful. He shows us just how elastic language can be."

— SASHA WEISS, HAARETZ

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