Jon Fasman The Unpossessed City: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780143116158

The Unpossessed City: A Novel

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9780143116158: The Unpossessed City: A Novel

A gripping novel about the dangers and draws of contemporary Russia?from the author of The Geographer?s Library

With The Geographer?s Library, Jon Fasman made an ?inventive and spirited? debut (The New Yorker) that landed him on The New York Times bestseller list. Every bit as dazzling, The Unpossessed City takes readers into the Wild East that is Russia today. There we meet Jim Vilatzer?an American expat whose Russian language skills land him a job interviewing former inmates of the Gulag and ensnare him in a web of deceit involving the CIA, Russia?s Interior Ministry, and Central Asian arms dealers selling the most dangerous technologies to the highest bidder. From its brooding portrayal of Moscow to its riveting pace, The Unpossessed City is an atmospheric triumph in the tradition of Donna Leon?s novels of Venice.

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About the Author:

Jon Fasman was born in Chicago in 1975 and grew up in Washington, D.C. He was educated at Brown and Oxford universities and has worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., New York, Oxford, and Moscow. His writing has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, Slate, Legal Affairs, the Moscow Times, and The Washington Post. He is now a writer and an editor for The Economist's Web site.

Review:

aThirtysomething Jim Vilatzer lives at home and works in his parentsa restaurant. Heas going nowhere until gambling debts force him to make a change. He lands a job in Moscow (he grew up speaking Russian to his immigrant grandparents), interviewing survivors of the gulag for a not-for-profit company. His work soon makes him a pawn in a scheme to sell to the highest bidder four of the former USSRas top weapons engineers, which, in turn, leads him to become a target of Russian state security and the CIA. Fasman ("The Geographeras Library," 2005), weaves two very different plotlines here, one the story of a man discovering a new world and realizing that his roots are more important than he realized, the other tracking the machinations of crooked Russian officials to sell fellow citizens for a profit. The first plot is deftly, even lovingly achieved; Fasmanas Moscow is beautiful, tragic, brutal, and exhilarating. The second story line is convoluted and arcane. But, even so, the sum of the parts in this lyrically written novel is more than enough to keep readers engaged.a
aThomas Gaughan," Booklist"
aFleeing gambling debts and a messy life in the unglamorous D.C. suburbs, a likable loser goes to Moscow to seek, if not his fortune, perhaps a future.
If Fasman ("The Geographeras Library," 2005) was worried about the second- novel syndrome, he neednat have been. This adventure of a man who has no business having adventures is a pleasure for most of its length, stumbling only occasionally as the author tries to get a grip on the technicalities of the spy thriller formula on which he has hung his shambling, gauche, goofy love letter to Moscow. His hero is Jim Vilatzer, only child ofa Russian father and Irish mother whose strip-mall deli in Rockville, Md., provides their son with not nearly enough income to pay off the Serbian gangsters running the poker games where Jim has run up a tab of about $24,000. It was bad enough for Jim that he had been dumped by his girlfriend, bad enough that he was living with his parents years after he should have started a family, but to have screwed up so badly as to put his parentsa livelihood in peril, thatas the outside of enough. Thank goodness his lifelong friend Vivek, another child of immigrants, has the common sense to arrange a repayment plan, a course of action that sends Jim out of the country to one of his ancestral homelands, where he will be safely out of reach of the Serbians. Itas not an insane plan; Jim speaks pretty good Russian, enough to get him a job at a sort of minor NGO where heas to spend his days collecting oral histories of life in the gulags and falling in love with Moscow. Itas slow getting started, but then a sensational hookup with a gorgeous Finn finally sets him on the track of survivors who, alas, are not all they seem to be. They do seem to be of great interest to American intelligence.
Great fun in a great, if grim, place.a
a"Kirkus Reviews"

"Literate and engaging. . . . The moving story of a smart, humble man making peace with his roots, coming of age as an adult. . . . Highly descriptive and absorbing."
-"Los Angeles Times"

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