Keith Gessen

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Keith Gessen
BornKonstantin Alexandrovich Gessen
(1975-01-09) January 9, 1975 (age 44)
Moscow, Soviet Union
OccupationEditor, writer, academic
RelativesMasha Gessen

Keith A. Gessen (born January 9, 1975)[2][3] is a Russian-born American novelist, journalist, literary translator, and co-editor of n+1, a thrice-yearly magazine of literature, politics, and culture based in New York City. He is also an assistant professor of journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.[1] In 2008 he was named a "5 under 35" honoree by the National Book Foundation.

Early life and education[edit]

Born Konstantin Alexandrovich Gessen into a Jewish family in Moscow, Soviet Union,[4] he and his parents and sister moved to the United States in 1981. They settled in the Boston area, living in Brighton, Brookline and Newton, Massachusetts.

Gessen's mother was a literary critic[5] and his father is a computer scientist now specializing in forensics.[6] His siblings are Masha Gessen, Daniel Gessen and Philip Gessen. His maternal grandmother, Ruzya Solodovnik, was a Soviet government censor of dispatches filed by foreign reporters such as Harrison Salisbury; his paternal grandmother, Ester Goldberg Gessen, was a translator for a foreign literary magazine.[4]

Gessen graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in history and literature in 1998.[1] He completed the course-work for his M.F.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University in 2004 but did not initially receive a degree, having failed to submit "a final original work of fiction."[7] According to his Columbia University faculty biography, he ultimately received the degree.[1]


Gessen with Russian novelist Ludmilla Petrushevskaya in 2009

Gessen has written about Russia for The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The Atlantic, and the New York Review of Books.[8] In 2004–2005, he was the regular book critic for New York magazine. In 2005, Dalkey Archive Press published Gessen's translation of Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl (Russian: Tchernobylskaia Molitva), an oral history of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In 2009, Penguin published his translation (with Anna Summers) of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales.

Gessen's first novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, was published in April 2008 and received mixed reviews. Joyce Carol Oates wrote that "in this debut novel there is much that is charming and beguiling, and much promise".[9] The novelist Jonathan Franzen has said of Gessen, "It's so delicious the way he writes. I like it a lot."[10] New York Magazine, on the other hand, called the novel "self-satisfied" and "boringly solipsistic".[11]

In 2010, Gessen edited and introduced Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager, a book about the financial crisis.[12] In 2011, he became involved in the Occupy Movement in New York City. He co-edited the OCCUPY! Gazette, a newspaper reporting on Occupy Wall Street and sponsored by n+1.[13] On November 17, 2011, Gessen was arrested by the New York City police while covering and participating in an Occupy protest at the New York Stock Exchange.[14][15] He wrote about his experience for The New Yorker.[16]

In 2015, Gessen co-edited City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis, which was named a "Best Summer Read of 2015" by Publishers Weekly.[17]

In 2018, Gessen's second novel, A Terrible Country, was published. In March 2019, it was serialized on BBC Radio 4.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Gessen is married to the writer Emily Gould[19] and was previously married when he arrived in New York City at age 22.[7][20] As of 2008, he resided in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.[7]



  • Gessen, Keith (2008). All the Sad Young Literary Men. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0143114772.
  • — (July 10, 2018). A Terrible Country. Viking. ISBN 978-0735221314.



  • Alexievich, Svetlana (2005). Voices from Chernobyl. Translated by Keith Gessen. Dalkey Archive Press.
  • Petrushevskaya, Ludmilla (2009). There once lived a woman who tried to kill her neighbor's baby : scary fairy tales. Selected and translated by Keith Gessen and Anne Summers. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Medvedev, Kiril (2012). It's no good. Translated by Keith Gessen, Mark Krotov, Corey Mead, and Bela Shayevich. Ugly Duckling Press.


  1. ^ a b c d "Keith Gessen | School of Journalism". Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  2. ^ U.S. Public Records Index Vol 1 & 2 (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc.), 2010.
  3. ^ "AGNI Online: Right of Return by Keith Gessen". Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Joanna Smith Rakoff. "Talking with Masha Gessen, Newsday, January 2, 2005.
  5. ^ Keith Gessen on Rediscovering Russia, "Big Think" May 13, 2008
  6. ^ Gabriel Sanders, "Faces Forward: Author Tells Tale of Her Grandmothers' Survival", Forward, December 10, 2004
  7. ^ a b c Itzkoff, Dave (April 27, 2008). "A Literary Critic Drops His Ax and Picks Up His Pen". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  8. ^ Wickett, Dan (March 6, 2005). "Interview with Keith Gessen". Emerging Writers' Forum. Archived from the original on June 12, 2007. Retrieved June 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Oates, Joyce Carol (May 1, 2008). "Youth!". The New York Review of Books. ISSN 0028-7504. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  10. ^ Neyfakh, Leon (November 15, 2007). "No Surprises at National Book Awards; Jonathan Franzen Talks About Being 48". Observer. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  11. ^ "Is This Book Worth Getting?". Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  12. ^ D. Garner, Here’s Why the Cookie Crumbled. July 13, 2010.
  13. ^ "Occupy and Space". n+1. January 5, 2012. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  14. ^ MiriMarkow (November 17, 2011), OccupyGessen, retrieved November 16, 2017
  15. ^ "Editors of new Verso book Occupy! arrested today at N17 protest". Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  16. ^ Gessen, Keith (November 28, 2011). "Central Booking". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  17. ^ "Best Summer Books, 2015 Publishers Weekly". Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  18. ^ Writer: Keith Gessen; Reader: Trevor White; Abridged by: Jill Waters and Isobel Creed; Produced by Jill Waters (March 11, 2019). "A Terrible Country". A Terrible Country. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  19. ^ Hicklin, Aaron (December 14, 2014). "Overstepping the bounds: how blogger Emily Gould has been oversharing". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  20. ^ Norris, Sarah (June 27 – July 3, 2008). "Love and other indoor sports". Downtown Express. 21 (7). Community Media LLC. Retrieved November 16, 2017. Born in Russia, [Gessen] grew up in Massachusetts, attended Harvard, and then moved to New York at age 22 with a wife, from whom he is now divorced.
  21. ^ Online version is titled "How Stalin became Stalinist".

External links[edit]