Margarita Khemlin: Дознаватель (The Investigator)

The latest addition to my website is Margarita Khemlin‘s Дознаватель (The Investigator). This is a complicated murder mystery, set in Chernihiv (Chernigov in this book), Khemlin’s home town, in the Ukraine in the early 1950s. The eponymous investigator, Police Captain Mikhail Ivanovich Tsupkoy, is not Jewish but the victim, Lilia Vorobeichik, stabbed, and most of the people he deals with during the case are Jewish, as was Khemlin. The murderer is soon found. Her boyfriend, an actor, confesses and soon after kills himself, without leaving a note. However, Mikhail is not convinced and continues the investigation, getting more and more embroiled in the case and in the various activities of the Jewish population. Indeed, his involvement has a serious effect on his marriage, his job and his mental stability. Khemlin tells an excellent and complicated story with something of an unexpected outcome but also shows us the treatment of the Jews in Ukraine and the Soviet Union

Claudio Magris: Alla cieca (Blindly)

The latest addition to my website is Claudio MagrisAlla cieca (Blindly). This is another highly inventive work from Magris, telling the story of man who thinks he is two different people – the fictitious Salvatore Cippico (born 1910) and the very real Jørgen Jørgensen (born 1780). Salvatore is recounting his tale to a psychiatrist in Trieste. He has fought for the Communists in Australia, Italy, Spain and Yugoslavia and has been imprisoned for his beliefs in all but Spain. Jørgen helped found Hobart but was later sent there as a convict and, in between, was briefly King of Iceland, served time in Newgate prison and fought at the Battle of Waterloo. Both had highly colourful lives, made more colourful by the two lives being conflated in Salvatore’s account, which is long, verbose and often confused. It is a wonderful tale, more in the realm of legend than history but the better for it.