About A Replacement Life: A singularly talented writer makes his literary debut with this provocative, soulful, and sometimes hilarious story of a failed journalist asked to do the unthinkable: forge Holocaust-restitution claims for old Russian Jews in Brooklyn, New York. Yevgeny Gelman, grandfather of Slava Gelman, “didn’t suffer in the exact way” he needs to have suffered to qualify for the restitution the German government has been paying out to Holocaust survivors.
But suffer he has – as a Jew in the war; as a second-class citizen in the USSR; as an immigrant to America. So? Isn’t his grandson a “writer”?
High-minded Slava wants to put all this immigrant scraping behind him. Only the American Dream is not panning out for him – Century, the legendary magazine where he works as a researcher, wants nothing greater from him. Slava wants to be a correct, blameless American – but he wants to be a lionized writer even more.
Slava’s turn as the Forger of South Brooklyn teaches him that not every fact is the truth, and not every lie a falsehood. It takes more than law-abiding to become an American; it takes the same self-reinvention in which his people excel. Intoxicated and unmoored by his inventions, Slava risks exposure. Cornered, he commits an irrevocable act that finally grants him a sense of home in America, but not before collecting a lasting price from his family.
A Replacement Life is a dark, moving, and beautifully written novel about family, honor, and justice.
About the participants:
Boris Fishman was born in the former Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States at the age of 9. His journalism, essays & criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, The London Review of Books & other publications. He is the editor of Wild East: Stories from the Last Frontier, an anthology about Eastern Europe after the fall of communism, & the recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center, among others. He lives in New York City.
Jon Baskin works on literature and philosophy at the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought. He is a founding editor of The Point Magazine.
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