ELKOST International Literary Agency

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Waiting for America: Documentary novel

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In 1987 a young Jewish man, the central figure in this captivating book, leaves Moscow for good with his parents. They celebrate their freedom in opulent Vienna and spend two months in Rome and the coastal resort of Ladispoli. While waiting in Europe for a US refugee visa, the book's twenty-year-old poet quenches his thirst for sexual and cultural discovery. Through his colorful Austrian and Italian misadventures, he experiences the shock, thrill, and anonymity of encountering Western democracies, running into European roadblocks while shedding Soviet taboos. As he anticipates entering a new life in America, he movingly describes the baggage that exiles bring with them, from the inescapable family traps and ties to the sweet cargo of memory.
An emigration story, Waiting for America explores the rapid expansion of identity at the cusp of a new, American life. Told in a revelatory first-person narrative, Waiting for America is also a vibrant love story, in which the romantic protagonist is torn between Russian and Western women. Filled with poignant humor and reinforced by hope and idealism, the author's confessional voice carries the reader in the same way one is carried through literary memoirs like Tolstoy's Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, or Nabokov's Speak, Memory. Babel, Sebald, and Singer—all transcultural masters of identity writing—are the coordinates that help to locate Waiting for America on the greater map of literature.

 Praise for Maxim D. Shrayer's Waiting for America

"Waiting for America is one of those memoirs, like Nabokov's Speak, Memory, that is more about feeling than narrative."
—David Mehegan, The Boston Globe/Off the Shelf

"The glory of this book lies in Shrayer's sinuous, neo-Proustian prose, beautifully fluid and perceptive with its luminous shocks of recognition, landscapes, descriptions and asides. ... Tales and teller mesmerize and delight."
—Sam Coale, The Providence Journal

"Now, after twenty successful years as an American, Shrayer reminisces about that difficult period with charm, insight, and unexpected humor. A lovely read."
—Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum, Jewish Book World

"Its focus is two months of freedom as a young Soviet émigré—full of girls, parents, crazy relatives, sightseeing, funny stories, books, and relief to be on a new road in life. With that in mind, Waiting for America admirably accomplishes its goal."
—Mimi Schwartz, JBooks

"Nobody since Kataev and Paustovsky... has been writing this way, and nobody since Bunin has dealt the Soviet Union such blows."
—Nika Naliota, book critic, Odessa

"Maxim D. Shrayer's story captivates from the very first pages: in the 1980s Soviet émigrés heading for the New World spend the summer first in Vienna, then in Italy... A remarkable human predicament, rendered [by Shrayer] with such power—so artistic, metaphorical, that one cannot help thinking of Dante's story... This is simultaneously a book of valediction and a chronicle of journeying to another world."
—Oleg Dorman, film director, Moscow

"We write about our loved and dear ones who are no longer with is, and in doing so we give them longer lives; with our love and words we make them a little bit immortal. Maxim D. Shrayer has given a new life to the events that will now always be with us."
—Mikhail Shishkin, author, Zürich