The Dissident: A Novel (Hardcover)
“A feast for serious fiction readers.” —Wendy Smith, The Washington Post
“A dead-serious, dead-funny, no-he-didn't marvel.” —Joshua Cohen, author of The Netanyahus
A thrilling, witty, and slyly original Cold War mystery about a ragtag group of Jewish refuseniks in Moscow.
On his wedding day in 1976, Viktor Moroz stumbles upon a murder scene: two gay men, one of them a U.S. official, have been axed to death in Moscow. Viktor, a Jewish refusenik, is stuck in the Soviet Union because the government has denied his application to leave for Israel; he sits “in refusal” alongside his wife and their group of intellectuals, Jewish and not. But the KGB spots Viktor leaving the murder scene. Plucked off the street, he’s given a choice: find the murderer or become the suspect of convenience. His deadline is nine days later, when Henry Kissinger will be arriving in Moscow. Unsolved ax murders, it seems, aren’t good for politics.
A whip-smart, often hilarious Cold War thriller, Paul Goldberg’s The Dissident explores what it means to survive in the face of impossible choices and monumental consequences. To help solve the case, Viktor ropes in his community, which includes his banned-text-distributing wife, a hard-drinking sculptor, a Russian priest of Jewish heritage, and a visiting American intent on reliving World War II heroics. As Viktor struggles to determine whom to trust, he’s forced to question not only the KGB’s murky motives but also those of his fellow refuseniks—and the man he admires above all: Kissinger himself.
Immersive, unpredictable, and always ax-sharp, The Dissident is Cold War intrigue at its most inventive. It is an uncompromising look at sacrifice, community, and the scars of history and identity, from an expert storyteller.
About the Author
Paul Goldberg is the author of the novels The Yid, which was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the National Jewish Book Award's Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction, and The Château. As a reporter, Goldberg has written two books about the Soviet human rights movement, and co-authored (with Otis Brawley) the book How We Do Harm, an expose of the U.S. healthcare system. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Slate, The New York Times, and elsewhere. He is also the editor and publisher of The Cancer Letter, a publication focused on the business and politics of cancer. He lives in Washington, D.C.
"Written with fervor, black humor and an infectious zest for Russian culture . . . [this] always stimulating novel is a feast for serious fiction readers." —Wendy Smith, The Washington Post
"A fast-paced . . . polyglot picaresque bursting with literary and artistic allusions . . . [Goldberg] handles his labyrinthine plot and long cast of characters with aplomb, while managing to keep the novel’s narrative voice jaunty and the pace taut . . . The Dissident is at once a time capsule, a critical commentary on Russian literature, and an indictment of Soviet society and its successor regimes." —Julia M. Klein, Forward
"[A] darkly comic tale . . . A refreshing and literary take on the genre that appeals to the intellect as well as the pulse." —Library Journal (starred review)
"Another strong performance by Goldberg, a master at dissecting divided souls. A smart, satirically streaked novel." —Kirkus
"Goldberg’s genre-defying thriller mixes political reflections, historical perspectives, philosophical musings, and the author’s personal take on the culture and society of Russia, where he lived until he was 14 . . . mesmerizing, eclectic, and intriguing." —Booklist
"Enjoyably absurd . . . Goldberg is an impressively encyclopedic guide. Readers looking for an ambitious, off the beaten path comedic mystery will find plenty to enjoy." —Publishers Weekly
"Crime and Punishment—for the Jews! Paul Goldberg's newest is a dead-serious, dead-funny, no-he-didn't marvel." —Joshua Cohen, author of The Netanyahus
"The Dissident is a murder mystery, a love story, a diplomatic thriller, and a glimpse into a pivotal moment in Soviet history. But most of all it is a joy. An incandescent conjuring of Moscow in the 1970s full of dark humor, vodka, smoked fish, and choices no one should be forced to make, The Dissident is a hilarious and erudite novel brimming over with life." —Michael David Lukas, author of The Last Watchman of Old Cairo
“Paul Goldberg crafts an unexpected and fully original Cold War mystery with a force of knowledge about his subject. In one way, it’s a highfalutin and wild ride, but the simplicity and harmony of a good novel is never lost. The Dissident is a brilliant dose of the humanist compassion we all need right now." —Derek B. Miller, author of How to Find Your Way in the Dark
"Paul Goldberg’s love letter to samizdat is a hilarious, anarchic tour through Soviet era Moscow and the absurd negotiations required to survive. Tense and witty, scathing yet affectionate, this wonderfully overstuffed rollercoaster is a perceptive and wise snapshot of refusenik life during the Cold War. Somewhere, Bulgakov is smiling." —Mark Sarvas, author of Memento Park
“Everything in this remarkably engaging, fast-paced, ingeniously plotted, and, in all, beautifully wrought book—by turns funny and heartbreaking—rings true, because everything in it is true. It is, above all else, an impeccably authentic fictionalized testimony. The parallels with present-day Russia drawn in this novel are inevitable and uncanny. The Dissident is essential reading for our times.” —Mikhail Iossel, author of Love Like Water, Love Like Fire
“The Dissident is not a history of Soviet dissent. The Dissident is literature, a novel that follows the conventions of a detective story. Its masterfully crafted detective plot and wordplay—with translations from Russian to English and English to Russian (with a dollop of Yiddish)—will undoubtedly please any reader.” —Aleksandr Daniėl’, member of the board of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization International Memorial