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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

De ruimte van Sokolov

Leon de Winter

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Title: De ruimte van Sokolov
Author: Leon de Winter
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992
Length: 411 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Sokolows Universum - Deutschland
Lo spazio di Sokolov - Italia
  • De ruimte van Sokolov has not been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining, if a bit over the top

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 15/2/2000 Alexander Kissler

  From the Reviews:
  • "Zu schön, um glaubhaft zu sein, mutet die Fabel von der wundersamen Errettung an, doch Vielschreiber de Winter (...) opfert einem besänftigenden Schluss gerne die psychologische Stimmigkeit. Am Ende überfordern die Polaritäten zwischen den Protagonisten und deren widerstreitenden Maximen, die zuvor teils flüssig entwickelt, teils mühevoll herbeikonstruiert worden sind, ihren Schöpfer." - Alexander Kissler, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung#

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       De ruimte van Sokolov begins with Sasha Sokolov witnessing a murder on the streets of Tel Aviv in 1990. Sokolov has certainly fallen on hard times. A leading space scientist in the Soviet Union, he emigrated to Israel -- and couldn't find a proper job. He's been reduced to working as a street cleaner, kept going only by drinking excessively (horrible Israeli vodka at that, not his beloved Stolichnaya).
       Not only does he witness the murder, he realises the assassin looks just like his former school comrade and later the boss of the space project he was working on, Lev Lesjawa. He comes eye to eye with the assassin and pleads for his life in Russian -- and the man walks away. As it turns out, Sasha isn't the only eyewitness, but he never reveals that he might have recognised the man to the police.
       Between his drinking and being questioned by the police, Sasha's street-cleaning career comes to an end too. It looks like the downward spiral will now just hit its final rapid twists (too bad, because an attractive new emigrée just moved into his boarding house ...) -- until a knight in shining armour comes, pulling him out of the gutter. Who else but Lev, who, after a few years in the United States, now also lives in Israel -- and is immensely successful ?
       Lev puts him up in a nice apartment and offers him a great job. Lev is helping out an old friend -- but even Sasha recognises it's also something of a deal with the devil. Not necessarily Lev, but the 'family' he's involved with. Still, it's a great opportunity, putting his talents to good use -- and he could make a fortune. Until, of course, Lev comes to him one night and tells him he has to kill a man .....
       Only bit by bit over the course of the novel is Sokolov's past revealed, from his schooldays with Lev to the project they worked on together and what all went wrong. What finally went wrong were several acts of betrayal; when there was a rocket disaster both Lev and Sokolov lost their positions (Sokolov was sent into internal exile in the Soviet Union), and Sokolov's marriage also fell apart. Lev always seemed to land on his feet, but as Sokolov learns time and again, his close friend and the games he plays aren't very transparent.
       De Winter offers some nice twists and turns, and the resolution is pleasing enough (if a bit simplistic). There are a few excesses -- Sokolov's vodka consumption, while it lasts, is certainly hard to take, and then there is his circumcision-operation (which does, however, serve another narrative purpose) -- but otherwise de Winter builds his narrative up quite well, with an interesting picture of Soviet and then Israeli life, and two quite compelling figures in Sokolov and Lev.
       It's a de Winter novel, so there's quite a bit of talk and thought about morality (and, of course, Jewish identity) -- most of it quite interesting, but some of it a bit forced. Still, quite a good story, and an entertaining read.

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De ruimte van Sokolov: Reviews: Leon de Winter: Other books by Leon de Winter under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Leon de Winter was born in 1954.

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