'A Replacement Life:' Curating suffering

'A Replacement Life' by Boris Fishman
'A Replacement Life' by Boris Fishman
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Boris Fishman has a lot in common with Slava, the main character in his debut novel, "A Replacement Life." Both men were born in Russia and both emigrated to New York City. Both spent time toiling on staff at highbrow magazines. That's where things diverge.

In "A Replacement Life," Slava stumbles into a very different writing opportunity: Penning false Holocaust narratives on applications for restitution from the German government.

• Fishman discusses writing in the clouds on Kerri Miller's podcast. Subscribe here or on iTunes.

The New York Times named Fishman's book one of the 100 Notable Books of 2014, calling it "bold, ambitious and wickedly smart."

An excerpt:

The telephone rang just after five. Unconscionably, the day was already preparing to begin, a dark blue lengthening across the sky. Hadn't the night only started? Slava's head said so. But in the cobalt square of the window, the sun was looking for a way up, the great towers of the Upper East Side ready for gilding.

Who was misdialing at five o'clock in the morning on Sunday? Slava's landline never rang. Even telemarketers had given up on him, you have to admit an achievement. His family no longer called because he had forbid-den it. His studio, miraculously affordable even for a junior employee of a Midtown magazine, rang with echoes, nothing but a futon, a writing desk, a torchiere wrapped in cast- iron vines (forced on him by his grandfather), and a tube television he never turned on. Once in a while, he imagined vanishing into the walls, like a spirit in Poe, and chuckled bitterly.

Fishman discussed his debut novel with MPR News' Kerri Miller. He will be in St. Paul for the Twin Cities Jewish Book Series March 1.