A bureaucratic glitch omits an entire building, along with its residents, from municipal records. So begins Reva’s darkly hilarious intertwined narratives, nine stories that span the chaotic years leading up to and immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union. But even as the benighted denizens of 1933 Ivansk Street weather the official neglect of the increasingly powerless authorities, they devise ingenious ways to survive.
In “Bone Music,” an agoraphobic recluse survives by selling contraband LPs, mapping the vinyl grooves of illegal Western records into stolen X-ray film. A delusional secret service agent in “Letter of Apology” becomes convinced he’s being covertly recruited to guard Lenin’s tomb, just as his parents, not seen since he was a small child, supposedly were. Weaving the narratives together is the unforgettable, chameleon-like Zaya: a cleft-lipped orphan in “Little Rabbit,” a beauty-pageant crasher in “Miss USSR,” a sadist-for-hire to the Eastern Bloc’s newly minted oligarchs in “Homecoming.”
Good Citizens Need Not Fear tacks from moments of intense paranoia to surprising tenderness and back again, exploring what it is to be an individual amid the roiling forces of history. Inspired by her and her family’s own experiences in Ukraine, Reva brings black absurdism to a collection that is as clever as it is heartfelt.