This is a soul-making book, one that doesn’t rest easy on the conventional narrative of one refugee’s escape, but probes deeper into the music our days make, sometimes against our will. Brava!
—Ilya Kaminsky, from the Preface
“I live our unlived life,” writes Irina Mashinski. In her fascinating new book The Naked World she joins Russia’s indispensable memoirists.… the survivor’s dilemma: do I live in the past and allow my identity to be determined by atrocities, or do I cling to the present and sanitize my own experience? Mashinki’s response is a brilliant poet’s: “each time when you raise your eyes to the stars, you see the past, and each time when you raise your eyes to the moon, you see the reflected present.” … But if history is beyond endurance, Mashinski humanizes it in moments of extraordinary intensity: scouring a Jewish cemetery for a single pebble; returning to a cathedral to re-position a votive candle “so you wouldn’t be so alone.” … a witness is the opposite of an onlooker. The Naked World is a gift and a necessity in our culture of screens and disembodied violence.
—D. Nurkse, author of Love in the Last Days: After Tristan and Iseult
The Naked World defies neat categorization as a powerful memoir that combines both prose and poetry in its witness to … a Russian émigrée whose four generations of Jewish relatives survived “The Great Terror” of Stalin’s genocide.… In a hybrid of interwoven reminiscences and lyrical poems, Mashinski witnesses to her sense of herself as a “double pariah,” that is, as a Jew who … exists also “as a stateless person with a so-called Nansen passport, stripped naked of national and cultural identity in the new world of her hosts.” … The Naked World represents Mashinski’s decades-long effort to “create her own destiny” … By finding enduring, literary expression that recounts the details of her remarkable journey…, Mashinski redefines American citizenship from a fresh perspective.…
—Chard deNiord, author of My Unknowing
… A whole collection of beautifully translated poems is a rare event—and few Russian poems have been translated as well as these. More than that, The Naked World is composed of … translated poems, freely adapted poems, and poems and prose originally written in English—and these seemingly disparate elements are perfectly integrated.… Never simplistic, never pointlessly obscure, each poem takes us with gentle confidence to an unexpected place.…
—Robert Chandler, translator of Andrey Platonov’s Soul
and Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate