Goldberg’s debut novel opens with a “knock-and-pick” scene set in February 1953 Moscow. Three men in a Black Maria leave the “castle-like gates” of Lubyanka to arrest Solomon Shimonovich Levinson, a Red Army veteran and actor for the defunct State Jewish Theatre.
A Yiddish-speaking audience would have rolled with laughter, Goldberg writes, at this pure performance, which “merges comedy, tragedy, absurdity, fantasy, reality…” Levinson performs a triumphant “pirouette with small-swords,” a stage trick, and escapes. So begins a mad, comic yet deadly serious adventure in which the “Old Yid” and sidekicks attempt to assassinate Stalin before he can follow through on his genocidal ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question’. Goldberg, a Russian émigré to the US in 1973 whose parents’ names were on Stalin’s lists, pulls off a tragicomic tour de force. (Credit: Picador)