The Bridge Over the Neroch: And Oth­er Works

Leonid Tsyp­kin; Jamey Gam­brell, trans.
  • Review
By – May 20, 2013

Leonid Tsyp­kin is arguably the most impor­tant unsung Jew­ish writer of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. A refusenik who encoun­tered anti-Semi­tism his whole life, Tsyp­kin was forced to smug­gle his lit­er­ary works out of Sovi­et Rus­sia and did not live to see his books crowned as mas­ter­pieces. Susan Son­tag dis­cov­ered his nov­el, Sum­mer in Baden Baden, in the 90s, but the book only made it to the Amer­i­can lit­er­ary scene in 2002 with the pub­li­ca­tion of Bridge Over the Neroch and Oth­er Works, which con­tains two novel­las burst­ing with genius and a smat­ter­ing of his col­lect­ed short sto­ries. As in his nov­el, anti-Semi­tism and the nature of Jew­ish iden­ti­ty occu­pies a cen­tral place in his works. Sum­mer in Baden Baden is an imag­i­na­tive work of empa­thy that depicts Dos­to­evsky, the won­drous author and drunk­en gam­bler, in Ger­many with his wife. Tsyp­kin won­ders, Why was I so strange­ly attract­ed and enticed by the life of this man who despised me and my kind?” and pon­ders this through­out the book. He brings the same sen­si­tiv­i­ty and sen­si­bil­i­ty to his novel­las. The first novel­la explores four gen­er­a­tions of a Russ­ian Jew­ish fam­i­ly who live through Nazism and Stal­in­ism. The sec­ond novel­la, Norar­takir,” is a bril­liant and in hind­sight huge­ly impor­tant explo­ration of the effects and frus­tra­tions of anti-Semi­tism in the lat­er twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Tsypkin’s prose glows with inge­nu­ity and exper­i­men­ta­tion as he cre­ates a chaot­ic, rag­ing riv­er of con­scious­ness in which present, past, and future; dream, real­i­ty, and mem­o­ry all col­lide with­in the same para­graph, even with­in the same sen­tence. At one point, the nar­ra­tor brings togeth­er the cru­ci­fix­ion of Christ and the mas­sacres of the Cru­sades with the gas cham­bers of Auschwitz in a sort of twist­ed ecsta­sy that should be regard­ed as one of the most arrest­ing pas­sages in mod­ern literature.


Joseph Win­kler is a free­lance writer liv­ing in New York City. He writes for Vol1Brooklyn, The Huff­in­g­ton Post, Jew­cy, and oth­er sites. While not writ­ing, Joe is get­ting a Mas­ters in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture at City Col­lege. To sup­port his extrav­a­gant lifestyle, Joe also tutors and unabashed­ly babysits. Check out his blog at nocon​ver​sa​tion​left​be​hind​.blogspot​.com.

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