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|Born||David Peisakhovich Shrayer
28 January 1936
Leningrad, Russia, USSR
|Occupation||author, translator, medical researcher|
|Alma mater||Leningrad First Medical School|
David Shrayer-Petrov (Шраер-Петров, Давид, Russian-American novelist, poet, memoirist, translator, and medical scientist; best known for his novel about refuseniks, "Gerbert i Nelli" (Herbert and Nelly), his poetry and fiction about Russian-Jewish identity, and his memoirs about the Soviet literary scene in the late 1950s-1970s.
Shrayer-Petrov was born of Jewish parents in Leningrad. Both of Shrayer-Petrov’s parents, Petr (Peysakh) Shrayer and Bella Breydo, moved from the former Pale of Settlement to Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in the 1920s to attend college. Shrayer-Petrov spent his early prewar years in Leningrad and was evacuated from the besieged city to a village in the Ural Mountains. The future writer and his mother returned to Leningrad in the summer of 1944, his father serving as a captain, and, subsequently, a major, in a tank brigade, and, subsequently, a lieutenant commander in the Baltic Fleet.
In 1959, Shrayer-Petrov graduated from Leningrad First Medical School and subsequently served in the army as a physician. In 1966 he received a Ph.D. from the Leningrad Institute of Tuberculosis. He married Emilia Polyak (Shrayer) in 1962, and their son Maxim D. Shrayer was born in 1967, already after the family moved from Leningrad to Moscow. From 1967 to 1978 Shrayer-Petrov worked as a researcher at the Gamaleya Institute of Microbiology in Moscow. He was fired from a senior research position after his decision to apply for an exit visa. In 1979-1987 Shrayer-Petrov and his family were refuseniks and endured persecution by the Soviet authorities.
Shrayer-Petrov entered the literary scene as a poet and translator in the late 1950s. Upon the suggestion of Boris Slutsky, the poet adopted the penname David Petrov. This assimilatory gesture did not simplify the publication of Shrayer-Petrov’s poetry in the Soviet Union. Most of his writings were too controversial for Soviet officialdom and remained in the writer's desk drawer or circulated in samizdat. Shrayer-Petrov's first collection of verse, Canvasses, did not appear until 1967. With great difficulty Shrayer-Petrov was admitted to the Union of Soviet Writers in 1976. His poem “My Slavic Soul” brought repressive measures against the author. A Jewish refusenik expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers, Shrayer-Petrov was unable to publish in the USSR; galleys of two of his books were broken in retaliation for his decision to emigrate. In spite of bullying and arrests by the KGB, Shrayer-Petrov’s last Soviet decade was productive; he wrote two novels, several plays, a memoir, and many stories and verses. He was granted permission to emigrate in 1987. Shrayer-Petrov's best-known novel, Herbert and Nelly, was the first to depict the exodus of Soviet Jews and the life of refuseniks in limbo. Since the publication of its first part in Israel in 1986, Herbert and Nelly has gone through three editions, most recently in 2014 in Moscow. After a summer in Italy, in August 1987 Shrayer-Petrov and his family arrived in Providence, RI, the home of David Shrayer-Petrov and Emilia Shrayer for the next twenty years. In Providence he worked as a medical researcher at Brown University-Roger Williams Hospital (Dr. Shrayer has published almost 100 scientific articles in microbiology and immunology). Emigration brought forth a stream of new literary works and publications. The writer and his wife currently reside in Brookline, MA, where Shrayer-Petrov devotes himself to writing full-time.
Books in English translation
- Dinner with Stalin and Other Stories. 2014, Syracuse, NY. Runner-up for the 2014 Edward Lewis Wallant Award.
- Autumn in Yalta: A Novel and Three Stories, 2006, Syracuse, NY.
- Jonah and Sarah: Jewish Stories of Russia and America, 2003, Syracuse, NY.
Books in Russian
- Village Orchestra, six long poems, 2016, St. Petersburg, Russia.
- Nevan Poems, poetry, 2011, St. Petersburg, Russia.
- Lines-Figures-Bodies: A Book of Poems, poetry, 2010, St. Petersburg, Russia.
- Two Books: Poems, poetry, 2009, Philadelphia, USA.
- Form of Love, poetry, 2003, Moscow, Russia.
- Drums of Fortune, poetry, 2002, Moscow, Russia.
- Petersburg Doge, poetry, 1999, St. Petersburg, Russia.
- Lost Soul, poetry, 1997, Providence, RI, USA.
- Villa Borghese, poetry, 1992, Holyoke, MA, USA.
- Song about a Blue Elephant, poetry, 1990, Holyoke, MA, USA.
- Canvases [in the collective Pereklichka, poetry, 1967, Moscow, Russia.
- The Story of My Beloved, or The Spiral Staircase, novel, 2013, Moscow, Russia.
- The Third Life, novel, 2010, Lugansk, Ukraine.
- Carp for the Gefilte Fish, stories, 2005, Moscow, Russia.
- These Strange Russian Jews, two novels, 2004, Moscow, Russia.
- The Tostemaa Castle, novel, 2001, Tallinn, Estonia.
- The French Cottage, novel, 1999, Providence, RI, USA.
- Herbert and Nelly, novel, 1992, Moscow; 2nd ed. 2006, St. Petersburg, Russia; 3rd ed. 2014, Moscow, Russia.
Novels published serially but not in book form
- Model of Life, novel, 2009-2010 (Mosty).
- Judin's Redemption, novel, 2005-2006 (Mosty).
- Hunt for the Red Devil: A Novel with Microbiologists, memoir, 2010, Moscow, Russia.
- Vodka and Pastries: A Novel with Writers, memoir-novel, 2007, St. Petersburg, Russia.
- Genrikh Sapgir: Avant-Garde Classic, criticism and biography, with Maxim D. Shrayer, criticism, 2004, St. Petersburg, Russia.
- Gold-Domed Moscow, memoir-novel, 1994, Baltimore, MD, USA.
- Friends and Shadows, memoir-novel, 1989, New York, NY, USA.
- Poetry and Labor, essays, 1977, Moscow, Russia.
- Poetry and Science, essays, 1974, Moscow, Russia.
- Genrikh Sapgir, Shorter and Longer Poems, co-edited with Maxim D. Shrayer, 2004, St. Petersburg, Russia.
- Shrayer-Petrov's official site
- Shrayer-Petrov, David. Entry from "Jewish Writers of the Twentieth Century"
- David Shrayer-Petrov in "Encyclopedia of Russian America"
- David Reich, "Destiny: A Poet Writes in His Father's Voice," Boston College Magazine, Fall 2003
- David Mehegan, "Russia to Rhode Island," Off the Shelf/The Boston Globe, February 8, 2008
- Alice Nakhimovsky, "Russian Literature," "The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe"
- David Shrayer-Petrov reads from and discusses his works at Bar-Ilan University (2012)
- Maxim D. Shrayer, An Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature: Two Centuries of Dual Identity in Prose and Poetry, 1801–2001, 2 vol. (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2007),1056-1062.