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The Suitcase

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  5,948 ratings  ·  272 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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Average rating 4.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,948 ratings  ·  272 reviews

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Rebecca McNutt
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia, russian, fiction
The Suitcase was a book assigned to me to read for my Soviet Russia history course, alongside a large couple of weeks we spent covering the Era of Stagnation (I still can't completely understand how this book connects to that). Anyway, The Suitcase is a fun look through simple prose at a life through various neglected objects which were gathered over the years by our ex-Soviet main character, who has recently made his way to New York City with only a single suitcase of belongings, which he promp ...more
Vit Babenco
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
How do we remember our life? We have personal belongings and they are like milestones, and every personal thing is a memento. We look at them and we do recall…
“Everyone who leaves is allowed three suitcases. That’s the quota. A special regulation of the ministry…
A week later I was packing. As it turned out, I needed just a single suitcase.
I almost wept with self-pity. After all, I was thirty-six years old. Had worked eighteen of them. I earned money, bought things with it. I owned a certain amou
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-russia
What a great writer! Funny, melancholic and sharp. Paints a fascinating picture of Soviet St-Petersburg in (presumably) the early 60s. Runner-up to my favourite Russian writer Konstantin Paustovsky. I will have to read all of Dovlatov's translated material.

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
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia
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
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having watched the movie "Dovlatov" on Netflix, I was curious to read his fiction. The Suitcase seemed to me to be either a novel or a series of short stories, and thinly disguised autobiography. He even uses his own name for the protagonist. The suitcase of the title ties the stories together. It is a suitcase he brought with him when he emigrated to the United States. Each story involves an item from the suitcase, all of which he attained while still in Russia. The stories have wry humor as we ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you have to go on a trip and there is no way you can bring your current reading material with you (because it weighs a ton and is basically a brick), one has to choose an alternative book. In the spirit of the book club meeting that I had to miss because of the same trip, I picked up Dovlatov's 'The Suitcase'. His suitcase (unlike mine) was packed with weird assortment of objects, each worth a story. Through 8 stories, we get to discover fragments of Dovlatov's life in USSR before he emigra ...more
Christopher Rex
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eesti-keeles, 2017
I don't get it. I don't get it in the slightest.

It's supposed to be funny? I didn't see the fun.

It's supposed to be super interesting? Well, I was bored to the extent of almost falling asleep while reading.

I hoped for 8 short stories that I could somehow understand... instead I got a short book filled with nonsensical situations that almost no sense and made me think that there's simply too much vodka-drinking going on.

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Marianna Neal
What an excellent little collection of stories! Funny, clever, full of irony, and a bit sad. Can't believe I haven't read any Dovlatov until now!
May 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: may-2017
Translated from its original Russian by Antonina W. Bouis, Sergei Dovlatov's The Suitcase fits wonderfully within both this month's Novella Showcase and my Reading the World Project. I had never read any Dovlatov before picking this novella up in the Books for Amnesty shop in Cambridge, but was intrigued by its premise: 'Several years after emigrating from the USSR, the author discovers the battered suitcase he had brought with him gathering dust at the back of a wardrobe. As he opens the suitca ...more
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
<<“I looked at the empty suitcase. On the bottom was Karl Marx. On the lid was Brodsky. And between them, my lost, precious, only life.”
But the voyage isn't over. And at the end of my allotted time I will appear at another gate. And I will have a cheap American suitcase in my hand. [...]
"There's a reason every book, even one that isn't very serious, is shaped like a suitcase." >>

You are the sum of your experiences and every book is the expression the author's experiences take. You know som
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say about Dovlatov that hasn't already been said by his millions of fans?
He writes about how small and ridiculous the Soviet Union government, or any entity where empathy is absent, can make a person feel, without having to explicitly say it, and he associates and describes people you never in a million years would want to associate with, but you want to read about his association with them.

He does not spare either the world or himself. Despite being an alcoholic, money borrower, min
Jul 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Wanting to get into great Russian literature? A book that makes you rock with laughter and sweep you off your feet with emotion? This book is not it. You can easily skip it.
Over-rated for reasons other than good writing. If you're a Russian literature fan or trying to get into it, this is not for you!

Bought this in a book buying spree (yes, lemurs do that) when my wife and I were shocked that we didn't know this Russian writer. She read it first and said it's bad. I read it and said it's not tha
Nazbanou Nozari
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 09, 2018 rated it liked it
A lighthearted Russian tale. Well, lighthearted in that Russian way of 'here are all the times I was almost killed and don't forget that nothing matters.'
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best unplanned purchase lately, got it on sale and loved every word of it, so much talent in succint and distinctive stories.
Aarav Balsu
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fi
I really enjoyed the structure of this book, where the narrator talks about the different objects he brought with him in his suitcase from the Soviet Union. Each story is centered around a particular object, and is a humorous anecdote that constructs a vivid description of urban Soviet middle-class life. Fairly short, you can finish it in an afternoon.
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
Ramon Remires
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Doblatov is a writer of my favored kind. He is sharp, witty and funny. The contents of his book are taken from the author's life, which, like many others in Soviet Russia, are not easy, to say the least, and especially those who oppose the regime and have to maneuver between their faith and their opinion and reality. What helped a lot in dealing with the conflicts was alcohol, the cheapest type made in Russia or foreign products, from another Communist source like Romania for example. Most of th ...more
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Light, sarcastic and probably will mostly be praised by the post soviet people. So if you are looking for smth to dive into after a busy workday, the short story genre so exquisity played by Dovlatov is definitely the read for you
João Reis
Funny book, a sarcastic look at the bizarre world of USSR. Nevertheless, it gets a bit disconnected throughout the chapters.
May 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
The concept of this book is intriguing. The author discusses the story behind the different items that are in suitcase. I would not say that it started out strong but I did feel that the first story was much more readable and interesting then the rest of the books. With the exception of the story about the socks , the other stories were of zero interest to me. It might have to do with the fact that I could not make a connection to the majority of the book or it just might be the writing.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library, russian
A bittersweet depiction of everyday existence and privations in the last decades of the Soviet Union. What can I say: it's my kind of humor. I wish I could find more of Dovlatov's books.
Recollection of memories attached to clothes brought to the new earth when emigrating from Soviet Russia, Dovlatov literally browses through his only suitcase to rediscover dusty memories. With a lot of dark humour we thirstily flip the pages of this short and dicey fiction.
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: other-books
Gift from Erika. An amusing read about a man who left the Soviet Union for America. Many years later, his young son finds the old suitcase that travelled with him. The writer gives an amusing account of each of the items found in his suitcase and the many memories they inspired of his time in the Soviet Union.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Nenad Vukusic
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Rick Skwiot
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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SERGEI DOVLATOV (Russian: Сергей Довлатов) 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 th ...more

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