The New York Times Book Review

Leonid Tsypkin

Leonid Tsypkin (1926–1982) was a pathologist, with a very strong interest in psychiatry, upholding the long tradition of doctors-turned-writers from Chekhov to Aksyonov. He was a devoted admirer of Dostoyevsky’s writings and a collector of Dostoyevsky memorabilia. He started writing prose in the late 1960s, and did not live to see one line of his fiction (unlike his many professional publications) in print. He had been twice denied permission to leave the Soviet Union with his family, and died of a heart attack in Moscow.

Read The New York Review of Books on Leonid Tsypkin.

cover image of the book The Bridge Over the Neroch & Other Works

The Bridge Over the Neroch & Other Works

Leonid Tsypkin’s novel Summer in Baden-Baden was hailed as an undiscovered classic of 20th-century Russian literature. The Washington Post claimed it “a chronicle of fevered genius,” and The New York Review of Books described it as “gripping, mysterious and profoundly moving.” In her introduction, Susan Sontag said: “If you want from one book an experience of the depth and authority of Russian literature, read this book.”

At long last, here are the remaining writings of Leonid Tsypkin: in the powerful novella Bridge Over the Neroch, the history of four generations of a Russian-Jewish family is seen through the lens of a doctor living in Moscow. In Norartakir, a husband and wife on vacation in Armenia bask in the view of Mt. Ararat and the ancient history of the land, until they are unceremoniously kicked out of their hotel and returned to Soviet reality. The remaining stories offer knowing windows into Soviet urban life. As the translator Jamey Gambrell says in her preface: “For Tsypkin’s narrator, history is a tightrope to be walked every minute of every day, in both his internal and external world.”

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cover image of the book Summer in Baden-Baden

Summer in Baden-Baden

by Leonid Tsypkin

With a contribution by Susan Sontag

A lost masterpiece and one of the major achievements of Russian literature in the second half of the 20th century. Summer in Baden-Baden was acclaimed by The New York Review of Books as “a short poetic masterpiece” and by Donald Fanger in The Los Angeles Times as “gripping, mysterious and profoundly moving.” Its author, Leonid Tsypkin, never saw a single page of his literary work published during his lifetime. A complex, highly original novel, Summer in Baden-Baden has a double narrative. It is wintertime, late December, no date given: a species of “now.” A narrator––Tsypkin––is on a train going to Leningrad (once and future St. Petersburg). And it is mid-April 1867. The newly married Dostoyevsky, Fyodor and his wife Anna Grigoryevna, are on their way to Germany, for a four-year trip. This is not, like J.M. Coetzee’s The Master of St. Petersburg, a Dostoyevsky fantasy. Neither is it a docu-novel, although its author was obsessed with getting everything “right.” Nothing is invented. Everything is invented. Dostoyevsky’s reckless passions for gambling, for his literary vocation, for his wife, are matched by her all-forgiving love, which in turn rhymes with the love of literature’s disciple, Leonid Tsypkin, for Dostoyevsky. In her remarkable introductory essay, Susan Sontag explains why it is something of a miracle that Summer in Baden-Baden has survived, and offers an account of Tsypkin’s beleaguered life and the important pleasures of his marvelous novel.

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The New York Times Book Review

A hundred years later, in his solitary underground in Brezhnev’s Moscow, Dostoevsky’s devoted reader, the good doctor Tsypkin, crafted his own small literary oeuvre of astonishing originality.

Rachel Polonsky, The New York Review of Books

Masterful novellas … great tragic and artistic force.

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