Coming from a thoroughly secular Soviet background, the Russian-British novelist Zinovy Zinik first became aware of his “Jewishness” when he emigrated to Israel in the 1970s. In this autobiographical essay, Zinik describes how an unheimliche experience in Berlin thirty years later led him to investigate the enigmatic and chequered past of his Russian-born grandfather. An exploration of “assumed identity” in twentieth-century Jewish experience.
(b.1945 in Moscow) is a novelist and broadcaster who has been living in the UK since 1976. He is editor and presenter of West End, a weekly radio show for the BBC Russian Service, and regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of eight books of fiction, including the collection of short stories Mind the Doors (New York 2002). My Father’s Leg, a documentary novella which evolved from a radio documentary for BBC Radio 3, was published in the Russian magazine Ural in 2005. Two collections of comic stories and sketches on life outside Russia, At Home Abroad (2008) and Letters from the Tird Shore, were published in Moscow in 2008.
In pursuit of one's own shadow
Novelist and broadcaster Zinovy Zinik left his native Russia in the 1970s and moved first to Israel and then to Britain. Speaking at the Eurozine network conference in Sibiu in September 2007, he traced the history of the shadow as metaphor for exile through Evgeni Shwartz’s play “The Shadow” back to earlier fables by Hans Christian Andersen and Adelbert von Chamisso. The sum effect: a web of intermeshed émigré biographies and fictions spanning two centuries of political change.
Communism isn’t an ideology but a religion; like Christianity, it has its saints, its scriptures, and its iconography. And like the early Christians, the job of the faithful is to bring light to the world in the diaspora. Yes, Soviet Communism is just getting started. At least that’s how it seems to Zinovy Zinik, propping up the bar of the Museum Tavern, across the road from the British Museum.