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The Suitcase

4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  1,931 ratings  ·  63 reviews

Sergei Dovlatov’s subtle, dark-edged humor and wry observations are in full force in The Suitcase as he examines eight objects—the items he brought with him in his luggage upon his emigration from the U.S.S.R. These seemingly undistinguished possessions, stuffed into a worn-out suitcase, take on a riotously funny life of their own as Dovlatov inventories the circumstances

Hardcover, 128 pages
Published September 28th 1990 by Grove Press (first published 1986)
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A collection of stories connected by items in a suitcase - things our narrator brought with him upon emigrating from the USSR. Who the "he" is, exactly, is a bit curious. While billed as a novel, our narrator seems to be Dovlatov himself, though when contrasted with what is known of his life, it doesn't hold up as firm autobiography, nor as complete fiction -- hovering in that all-too familiar place of half-truth.

It becomes clear each item in the suitcase has outgrown its usefulness, the suitcas
In these stories, Dovlatov describes the contents of the suitcase he brought out of the USSR in the eighties, containing the whole of his most precious possessions--a belt, a shirt. The stories of the book remind me in a certain way of those in Primo Levi's The Periodic Table based on various chemical elements. I think they're haunting in the same way, though Levi's tone is tender and brave, assured, where Dovlatov's very Russian, contemporary voice is hilarious, self-deprecating, self-implicati ...more
I hope to one day be able to read everything Dovlatov has written. There is such biting humor in his reality.

All ruined peoples are twins...

We greeted each other. She asked, "They say you've become a writer?"
I was bewildered. I wasn't prepared for the question to be put that way. Had she asked, "Are you a genius?" I would have answered calmly and affirmatively. All my friends bore the burden of genius. They called themselves geniuses. But calling yourself a writer was much harder.
I said, "I writ
Christopher Rex
If you're looking for a dry, sarcastic humor in a fast-paced and funny "novel", this is your book. Though it is called a "novel", it is hard to believe the book isn't almost entirely non-fiction.

Set in the Soviet Union, the bitter-humorous acceptance of the failures of Communism makes for great short-chapters and stories of life within a failing system, lubricated heavily with vodka and other alcohol.

The story starts with the author's son finding an old suitcase in his closet (in America). Insid
This is the author which I probably like most of all my favourite Russian authors. I love every sentence, every scene and every word of his works. Dovlatov is definitely an outstanding author of his epoch and reading his books means learning more about the atmosphere of his time and place.
Екатерина Умнякова
Потрясная книга о вещах Сергея Донатовича и о воспоминаниях, связанных с оными =)
Joel Fishbane
The government of the Soviet Union (1922 - 1991) produced an army of disasters in their day, but no one can ever fault them for giving us Sergei Dovlatov. Born just after the Nazis invaded Mother Russia, Dovltaov would survive the war and go on to be a soldier, prison guard and journalist before escaping to the United States. Anticipating "creative non-fiction" years before the term was ever invented, Dovlatov wrote in a terse, comical style in the voice of a narrator created in his own image. T ...more
Nazbanou Nozari
Dovlatov is a simple genius. A genius without glory and thunder, just a stripped down genius with an incredible sense of humor to wrap the darkest moments in. With a few simple sentences he takes you right to the heart of misery, then with the cleverest of twists makes you feel that it's really not that bad after all. The Suitcase is a little thin book that manages to leave you with a taste of Stolichnaya on your tongue, a few snowflakes on your hair and a heavy heart you can't quite find a reas ...more
Nenad Vukusic
The Suitcase is a collection of stories about the contents of the suitcase Dovlatov brings with him, when leaving the USSR in the early 70ies. Each and every item, from pea green Finnish synthetic socks to good quality shoes stolen from a politician during a monument revealing ceremony is a story. Short and simple sentences woven together into a complex tapestry of emotion, characters, even history. Being Croatian, I am reading these in Croatian, but have every intention of picking up Dovlatov i ...more
Si portano via tutto, piastrelle, gesso, polietilene, motori elettrici, bulloni, viti, valvole termoioniche, fili, vetri.
Spesso tutto ciò assume un carattere metafisico. Parlo dei furti assolutamente arcani, privi di qualsivoglia ragionevole scopo. Sono sicuro che in questa forma esistono solo in Russia.
Conoscevo un uomo fine, d'animo nobile, istruito, che si era portato via dalla fabbrica un secchio di malta di cemento che, strada facendo, ovviamente, si era solidificato. Lo scippatore aveva
I want to marry Russian humor!
Naklada Ljevak, 2013.

Kovčeg je jedna veoma iskrena pripovijest o stvarima koje je mladi pripovjedač (po svoj prilici sâm Dovlatov, iako vjerojatno ne potpuno autobiografski) kroz svojih 36 godina prikupio i ponio sa sobom u emigraciju. Nakon emigracije one su mu u novom svijetu značile toliko da ih nije ni iz kovčega izvadio. Godinama kasnije, kovčeg, u kutu ormara, otkriva njegov sinčić, što izazove erupciju sjećanja na život i događaje kojima je prošao i iz kojih je proizašlo vlasništvo
Anna Piskur
еще очень давно, я даже не могу вспомнить в каком туре, читала у кого-то отзыв на эту книгу в рамках Барсумской Рулетки. Отзыв был настолько хорош, что книга вскорости появилась у меня на электронной книжке. А такое бывает очень-очень редко. Оценки на книгу тоже везде довольно высокие, так что логично, что я ожидала чего-то очень хорошего. Возможно, остроумного, возможно, смешного.
В итоге же все вышло несколько иначе... Возможно, дело во мне: не жила в СССР, нет еще 20 лет, возможно, не доросла.
Divertido y mordaz. Tiene una narrativa fluida y un tanto cínica. Es una especie de escritor vagabundo, despreocupado e indiferente que no tiene empacho en exhibir su falta de convicción con la vida, su falta de compromiso. Uno entre pocos, un cínico y sarcástico entre un océano de escritores solemnes y llorones. Y en efecto: un libro es una maleta.
This collection of short stories recalls Dovlatov's life in the Soviet Union through items he brought to the US when he left. It is a charming book, although there are points where it becomes less funny and more sad. Still, definitely worth reading.
Ivo Crnolatac
Great Idea for a book, brilliantly executed. Guess it is a bit less entertaining for someone who did not live behind the iron curtain, where reality was sometimes more bizarre than fiction.
Kelsey Dangelo
When Dovlatov left the USSR, he was only allowed one suitcase. In the suitcase is a collection of clothes he acquired through various means, which he relates in this autobiographical novel. Mostly, the novel is a series of comedic vignettes of an unobtrusive unautonomous man finding himself wrapped up in the antics of thieves, filmmakers, journalists, artists, bureaucrats, and, most of all, drunks. There’s lots of vodka. A quick read with a few chuckles. If there’s anything noteworthy or memorab ...more
This book isn't that bad, contrary to what my rating shows. It's more that it's not much of a book.

The suitcase is about the associated stories with each item found in an old suitcase. It was interesting to read about Russian life and culture and personalities.

But it's not too far from reading somebody's blog. There's no character arc in the stories, like you usually expect from short stories. No twist ending, no deep meaning. They are entertaining and well written, but there's just not much t
Farzane Fahimian
البته به نظرم 2.5 براش خوبه
The Suitcase calls itself a novel. It gets away with this because each story is centered on memories of things he finds in an old suitcase. This framing device would be fine if it felt like it wove between them in any meaningful way. Instead it feels like he needed something to make a weekend writing session into something publishable. In lieu of fleshing out a character driven opus about the absurdity of Soviet Russia, we are given snippets of what feels like the author’s own experiences withou ...more
Olea Pascu
Printre scriitorii nepublicati in Uniunea Sovietica, dar cu mare succes in Occident, in acest caz in Statele Unite, este si Serghei Dovlatov care i-a cucerit pe americani, stirnindu-i invidia amicala lui Kurt Vonnegut, care s-a nascut in State, a luptat pentru aceasta tara si totusi care nu a reusit sa fie inca publicat in The New Yorker, cind Dovlatov a fost aproape instantaneu considerat spre publicare (al doilea scriitor rus dupa Vladimir Nabokov, care a aparut in prestigiosul jurnal). Scriit ...more
Rick Skwiot
A funny, caustic, clever and perceptive insider’s view of Soviet Union dysfunction—and its dysfunctional, alcoholic people—crafted in a series of quasi-fictional vignettes by one of its victims. The book depicts the surreal, threadbare and hopeless lives of those cynically resigned to their dark fate in a corrupt and ill-conceived system that all strive to outwit, if only to get a free drink or warm hat. As Dovlatov writes: “Once I watched a documentary about Paris during the Occupation. Crowds ...more
Great idea for a novel composed of stories. Often, though, the stories are so internal to the character that reading them feels like reading someone's notes for a story.
I don't know why I have waited so long to read this book. Not sure how it reads in English, but the original Russian novel is awesome!

I blinked and it finished. He's darkly humorous and very good at pointing out the farcical side of Soviet life. But It's barely a novel!
Oleg Melnikov
It will be fun to read - if only it was not about the time of my life. I remember 70s and 80s.
Dovlatov sort of feels like the Russian David Sedaris to me. Loved this. Great translation.
Josiah Rosell
Says so much with such pithy sentences and expert reliance on context for humor! Quick, entertaining, and informative read on Russian culture a couple decades back.
Igor Chebyshov
Понравился, но другие произведения Довлатова я еще не начинал читать.
Peter McCambridge
Like thousands of others, no doubt, after hearing The Colonel Says I Love You on The New Yorker fiction podcast, I set out in search of anything and everything Dovlatov had ever written. He's a satisfying author to track down: I could never quite remember his name, lots and lots of bookshops had nothing at all by him. And so I was excited to at last get my hands on The Suitcase. I was disappointed. It was nothing earth-shattering. Not bad, but it never came close to the heights of my first dose ...more
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SERGEI DOVLATOV was born in Ufa, Bashkiria (U.S.S.R.), in 1941. He dropped out of the University of Leningrad after two years and was drafted into the army, serving as a guard in high-security prison camps. In 1965 he began to work as a journalist, first in Leningrad and then in Tallinn, Estonia. After a period of intense harassment by the authorities, he emigrated to the United States in 1978. He ...more
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“There's a reason every book, even one that isn't very serious, is shaped like a suitcase” 6 likes
“Our life is but a grain of sand in the indifferent ocean of infinity.” 6 likes
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