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Stalin's Barber: A Novel Hardcover – 16 Dec 2012

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Taylor Trade Publishing (16 Dec. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158979771X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589797710
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.4 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,098,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Stalin's Barber is all that the great historical novels used to be-epic in scope, with powerful characterizations, visceral action, and a blazingly intelligent authorial point of view. Here we meet-and know-the chief players in the extraordinary centrifuge that was Stalin's Soviet Union. The culture is revealed and flayed; the lives are displayed and understood-this is 'grand' writing, in the sense of 'grand' opera, from a man who is already a master playwright, and now deserves to be a world figure. -- Frank Delaney, author of the New York Times bestselling Ireland: A Novel A vivid, imaginative story rich in detailed characterisation which takes the reader on a dark journey laced with black humour into the heart of the USSR at the height of Stalin's power. Levitt explores a terrifying world of lies, deceit, and half truths; a world of party hacks, informers, and secret police; a world where an innocent phrase, misplaced 'joke,' or misinterpreted glance leads to imprisonment, deportation, torture, and murder. Against all the odds, the central character, a Jewish barber, retains his spirit of independence and dreams of 'freedom' for himself and his extended family, all of whom suffer at the hands of the State. However, when he is given the job of Stalin's barber, he seems doomed to certain death. Every time he is summoned, he has to shave Stalin. But who is the man he shaves-is it really 'The Beloved Leader' or a double? A disturbing, highly readable insight into the 'nightmare' world of the Soviet state. -- Martin Jenkins, former chief producer, British Broadcasting Corporation (Drama) and founding artistic director of the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool Men will tell their barber things they wouldn't tell their wives, and Stalin was no exception. In a novel as tantalizingly broad as the steppe and a plot as treacherous as the taiga, Paul M. Levitt penetrates to the Soviet heart of darkness. He weaves his tale around a question as dangerous as the razor wielded by the Great Leader's talented barber-what secrets do these two men share and who, in the end, really holds in his hands the power to change history? -- Peter Kracht, University of Pittsburgh Press Barbers are traditionally also bloodletters. The twentieth century has had some spectacular meetings between haircutters and tyrants-Charlie Chaplin's being the most famous-but here, the field of operations is even wider: from southeastern Europe to starving villages in Russia to doubles in the Kremlin. And just when you think any of it might be real, you turn a corner and meet Nikolai Gogol. A surreal ride. -- Caryl Emerson, Princeton University [Stalin's Barber is] beautifully written in an effortless prose that is erudite without pretension. I admire it and envy it. -- Sir Arnold Wesker, playwright, playwright and author Levitt is ambitiously epic... With equal parts comedy and tragedy, Levitt vividly illustrates the darkly humorous experience of life in a totalitarian state, where no one can be trusted and the law is removed from reason... The novel soars when Levitt brings [all of] the strands together in the second half. Publishers Weekly This fascinating novel is easy to admire ... [it] captures [the] horror [of Stalin's 1930s Russia] and yet maintains an undercurrent of absurdist humor... Levitt's powerful narrative variously suggests Chaplin's Great Dictator, Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Voltaire's Candide, Heller's Catch-22 and Brecht's Mother Courage, but remains an entirely original, entirely remarkable work of the imagination. The Washington Post Let's just leave it that this is tale well-told (no surprise, the author is a playwright), full of philosophy and surreal humor, excellent characters, and gripping action, to say nothing of some good history. That the protagonist is a barber offers an exceedingly intimate view of things we might previously have thought to be rather grand scale. Russian Life While Stalin's Barber serves as an interesting work of fiction, its real value is as a humanized portrayal of history that draws family members and friendships from what might otherwise be an impersonal ledger of atrocities. Stalin's rule was so brutal and the statistics about his crimes are so vast that telling the story of an individual man among the millions who suffered can be a difficult feat. Paul M. Levitt does it successfully. Philosophy of Shaving

About the Author

Paul M. Levitt is professor of English at the University of Colorado and the author of several novels, plays, and works of literary criticism. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Paul Michael Levitt's bibliography is to literature what Franz Joseph Haydn's known works are to music. Stalin's Barber is, in my view, the best, most carefully researched, authentic, and compelling opus in his vast corpus of novels and non-fictional writings. I am honored to have made some modest suggestions while the work was in progress, as the author graciously notes in the Acknowledgments. In the process of being initiated into the inner mysteries of the Kremlin and introduced to life in some of the provinces, the reader expands his knowledge of Russian terminology and geography. The accounts of Stalin's doubles and of the ritual of alcoholic flaming of his sideburns' stubble without singeing the skin are especially fascinating. Dr. Levitt writes for the joy of writing, not for the associated remuneration, but this novel seems destined to enrich him in both senses.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x983f2e58) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x993616cc) out of 5 stars The Kunikov Review Says It All 11 Jun. 2014
By M. Feldman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'll readily agree that Levitt's idea was ambitious, and I'll even concede that there were some promising moments. However, potential readers should consider the book in light of the Kulikov review.
HASH(0x99d4b7bc) out of 5 stars An interesting read 21 Aug. 2013
By Rita Kelley - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a difficult book to read, because of the content. The times in Russia were hard at best, economically as well as socially. people were encouraged to spy on one another, neighbors, friends and family. This created a lot of morally challenging situations and choices were made out of fear, survival and necessity, morality did not always enter into these decisions. A very challenging read leaving the reader to wonder what she might have done differently under the same circumstances. The one thing that jumped out at me was that in the midst of everything, love did prevail which leaves us with hope.
HASH(0x99eda0fc) out of 5 stars interesting characters and plot twists 1 Feb. 2013
By J. Lazar - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Enjoyed the descriptions of the characters. The Russian names and locations were a little difficult to keep track of, but the author did reference earlier plot to help me recall the significance of a person or place.
Enjoyed it.
HASH(0x98922498) out of 5 stars Artfully written – a deeply human story, told with ... 14 May 2015
By Gary Gautier - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Artfully written – a deeply human story, told with both satirical humor and poignant feeling, set in a lush density of circumstantial and historical detail.
HASH(0x98922744) out of 5 stars An Excellent Historical Novel ! 11 May 2013
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This imaginative narrative keeps one in suspense while at the same time being firmly based in the history of the Stalin era.
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