Reviews for Translator
Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 February 2002
Crowley's latest novel, set during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, demonstrates to the reader, among other things, the escape that poetry and literature can provide in times of trouble. Kit Malone, an aspiring writer at a small midwestern college, develops a relationship with exiled Russian poet Innokenti Falin. Poetry becomes common ground for these two people with troubled pasts. They develop a close friendship, and eventually Falin asks her to help translate his poems into English. Working with Falin enables Kit to face her own demons and troubles. Their friendship turns to romance as the international crisis builds. The world survives the Soviet-American crisis, but their relationship does not. Finally, on a trip to Russia years later, Kit can come to terms with their relationship. A moving, thoughtful book. ((Reviewed February 15, 2002)) Copyright 2002 Booklist Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2002 February #1
Is it no longer possible for poetry to carry the soul of nations? That's the question raised by this tale of a love affair between a young American student and an exiled Soviet poet.In the late 1990s, Kit Malone heads to St. Petersburg to meet with friends of Russian poet Innokenti Falin, whom she knew in the '60s shortly after he was exiled and took up a teaching position in the US. She hopes to learn what became of her old flame, but it turns out the scholars and poets she meets are equally curious about what Falin was doing stateside before his death. Malone tells them her story: flashback to Kit as college student, interested in poetry, taking a course from the closely watched professor, once one of Russia's lost children. It's soon clear that the two are drawn to each other's history of sadness and loss, and the private lessons in poetry turn into mutual translation with all the earmarks of love and passion. It can only last so long, however; Falin is under the intelligence microscope, and that scrutiny only intensifies when the Cuban Missile Crisis heats up. Before long, Malone finds a creepy Fed in Falin's house, is asked to keep tabs on her lover, and learns that not all her friends are friendly. When it becomes clear that the world's survival is on the line, Falin suggests that by mysteriously disappearing he may be able to affect the outcome. Crowley's lovely, effortless writing (Daemonomania, 2000, etc.) and his accurate, earnest portraits of Russians make this a sad love story with an important piece of rhetoric at its heart. Did poetry survive the '60s? Does mutual assured destruction render verse obsolete? Falin, our hero bard, disappears into the netherworld he'd come from, but the world survives.A rarity: a love story with a core of intelligence and insight. Copyright Kirkus 2002 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2002 January #2
Writer's writer Crowley, who has been working for years on a series that weaves fantasy elements into larger, more naturalistic plots (Love and Sleep; Aegypt; Daemonomania), here abandons the otherworldly for a novel that builds realistically toward a historic event: the Cuban missile crisis. Christa "Kit" Malone and her brother, Ben, have rarely lived anywhere longer than a year: their father works on some hush-hush, inexplicable cybernetic business for the Department of Defense, and their mother has become an expert in packing. When Ben, with whom Kit is very tight, joins the Green Berets at the end of the 1950s, Kit, partly in protest, gets pregnant. Teenage pregnancy being more scandalous then than now, her folks stash her with some nuns until she has the baby, which is born dead. With this secret behind her, she goes to a midwestern university and meets a recently exiled Russian poet, Innokenti Falin. Kit, who has written prize-winning poetry herself, is attracted by Falin's story. An orphan raised on the street, his poems grow out of the intersection between learned and street culture, and are indigestible to the Soviets. After Kit receives news that Ben has died in a freak accident in the Philippines, she returns to the university and becomes, if not Falin's lover, at least his partner. Then the Cold War heats up over Cuba, an unnamed government agency starts nosing around Falin and the poet himself begins to act mysteriously. Since novels are built to show, not tell, few novelists, outside of Nabokov in Pale Fire, can both outline a great poet and produce the poetry. Although Falin does emerge as a vivid figure despite the faltering verses attributed to him, Kit never rings true. Crowley won't break out of cult status with this novel, and his fans may be puzzled by his hiatus from the fantastic. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.