Imagine 8 objects define who you are. What would they be? What would they say about you? Such is the case—in this case, a suitcase—in Sergei Dovlatov’s impressive novel, The Suitcase. As Dovlatov examines the items he brought with him in his luggage upon his emigration from the U.S.S.R., the seemingly undistinguished possessions take on a life of their own as the author inventories the circumstances in which he acquired them. This brings a brilliant series of interconnected tales: A poplin shirt evokes the bittersweet story of a courtship and marriage, while a pair of boots (of the kind only the nomenclature can afford) calls up the hilarious conclusion to an official banquet. Some driving gloves—remnants of Dovlatov’s short-lived acting career—share space with neon-green crepe socks, reminds of a failed black-market scam.
Imbued with a comic nostalgia overlaid with Dovlatov’s characteristically dry wit, The Suitcase is an intensely human, delightfully ironic novel from a wonderfully insightful Soviet satirist ($14.95, amazon.com).