Maxim D. Shrayer

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Maxim D. Shrayer
Native name
Максим Давидович Шраер
BornMaksim Davidovich Shrayer
(1967-06-05)5 June 1967
Moscow, Russia, USSR
Occupationauthor, literary scholar, translator, professor
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materBrown University, Yale University
Notable awardsNational Jewish Book Award (2007) Guggenheim Fellowship (2012)
SpouseDr. Karen E. Lasser

Maxim D. Shrayer (Russian: Шраер, Максим Давидович; born June 5, 1967, Moscow, USSR) is a bilingual Russian-American author, translator, and literary scholar, and a professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies at Boston College.


Shrayer was born and grew up in Moscow, USSR, in the family of the writer David Shrayer-Petrov, and the translator Emilia Shrayer. Together with his parents he spent almost nine years as a refusenik before immigrating to the US in the summer of 1987. Shrayer attended Moscow University, Brown University (BA 1989), Rutgers University (MA 1990), and Yale University (Ph.D. 1995). Since 1996 he has been teaching at Boston College, where he is presently a Professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies and co-founded the Jewish Studies Program. [1] Shrayer founded and moderates the Michael B. Kreps Readings (Крепсовские Чтения) in Russian Émigré Literature at Boston College.[2] Shrayer also directs the Project on Russian & Eurasian Jewry at Harvards' Davis Center.[3] Shrayer lives in Brookline, Mass. with his wife Dr. Karen E. Lasser[4], a medical researcher, and their two daughters.

Critical/Biographical Writing and Literary Translations[edit]

Shrayer has authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited more than fifteen books in English and Russian. He has translated into English poetry and prose by over forty authors, many of them Jewish-Russian writers, including four books of fiction by his father, David Shrayer-Petrov, which he edited and cotranslated: Jonah and Sarah, Autumn in Yalta, Dinner with Stalin, and Doctor Levitin. A noted scholar of Vladimir Nabokov, Ivan Bunin, Jewish-Russian literature, Russian Jewry, and Soviet literature of the Shoah, Shrayer has published extensively on émigré culture and various aspects of multilingual and multicultural identities in 19th and 20th century literature. His book "Russian Poet-Soviet Jew" (2000) was the first study focused on Jewish literary identity in the early Soviet decades. With his father, Shrayer coauthored the first book about the avant-garde poet Genrikh Sapgir. For the two-volume Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature: Two Centuries of a Dual Identity in Prose and Poetry, 1801-2001, which showcases over 130 authors, Shrayer received the National Jewish Book Award (2007). In 2018 he published another anthology, Voices of Jewish-Russian Literature, to feature over 80 authors. In 2012 Shrayer was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his research on Jewish poets and witnesses to the Shoah—a topic he investigated in his book I SAW IT: Ilya Selvinsky and the Legacy of Bearing Witness to the Shoah (2013) and in recent articles. His book With or Without it: The Prospect for Russia's Jews, examines Russia's dwindling yet still vibrant Jewish community.

Literary career[edit]

Unlike most representatives of the so-called "new wave" of Russian-American writing, Maxim D. Shrayer had written and published extensively in his native Russian prior to having made a transition to writing prose predominantly in English.[5] He continues to write literary prose in both languages and to co-author translations of his English-language works into Russian.

Shrayer began to write poetry and prose in his native Russian at the age of eighteen and subsequently contributed it to Russian-language magazine abroad and in the former USSR. His Russian-language poetry has been gathered in three collections. At Brown University Shrayer majored in comparative literature and literary translation and studied fiction writing with John Hawkes. Around 1995, the year when he received a Ph.D. in Russian literature from Yale University, Shrayer switched to creative prose mainly in English. His stories, essays and memoirs, have since appeared in American, Canadian, and British magazines, among them Agni, Kenyon Review, Southwest Review, and Tablet Magazine. Shrayer's works have been translated into Russian, Japanese, German, Croatian, Italian, Chinese, Slovak and other languages.

Shrayer's literary memoir "Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration" appeared in 2007 as the first literary book in the English language to capture the experience of Soviet Jewish emigres and former refuseniks waiting in Italy en route to the New World.[6] Of Waiting for America Sam Coale wrote in The Providence Journal that "[t]he glory of this book lies in Shrayer's sinuous, neo-Proustian prose, beautifully fluid and perceptive with its luminous shocks of recognition, landscapes, descriptions and asides…Tales and teller mesmerize and delight."[7] Shrayer's Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story, chronologically a prequel to Waiting for America, came out in 2013 and was a finalist of the National Jewish Book Awards. It depicts the experience of growing up Jewish in the Soviet Union and the struggle of refuseniks for emigration.[8] Annette Gendler wrote in Jewish Book World that "Maxim D. Shrayer's stunning memoir … is an engaging story of growing up as the son of Jewish intellectuals in Moscow who applied for emigration when he was ten to give him a future as a Jew. … Leaving Russia should be assigned reading for anyone interested in the Jewish experience of the twentieth century."[9]

Shrayer's collection of stories Yom Kippur in Amsterdam, was published in 2009. Of Yom Kippur in Amsterdam Leah Strauss wrote in Booklist: "This intricate, thoughtful collection explores the inexorable complexities of relationships and religion…Shrayer's eight delicate stories trace his characters' diverse struggles against the limits of tradition and culture."[10] Reviewing the collection in "MultiCultural Review," Eva Martin Sartori remarked that "a sense of longing suffuses all the stories....the exquisitely precise vocabulary manages to locate these characters in the present..."[11]


Nonfiction and Fiction in English:

  • With or Without You: The Prospect for Jews in Today's Russia. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2017.
  • Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2013. Russian translation Бегство: Документальный роман (Moscow: Tri kvadrata, 2019).
  • Yom Kippur in Amsterdam: Stories. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2009. Expanded Russian translation Исчезновение Залмана (Moscow: Knizhniki, 2017).
  • Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2007. Russian translation "В ожидании Америки: Документальный роман" (Moscow: Al'pina Non-fikshn, 2013; 2nd ed. 2016). Italian translation Aspettando America Pisa: Pisa University Press, 2017.

Selected books of criticism and biography:

  • Бунин и Набоков: История соперничества (Bunin and Nabokov. A History of Rivalry). Moscow: Alpina Non-fikshn, 2014; 2nd. ed. 2015 [in Russian]. Slovak translation, 2016; Chinese translation, 2016.
  • I SAW IT: Ilya Selvinsky and the Legacy of Bearing Witness to the Shoah. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2013.
  • Genrikh Sapgir: Avant-garde Classic (with David Shrayer-Petrov). St. Petersburg: Dmitrij Bulanin, 2004 [in Russian]. 2nd., corrected edition St. Petersburg: Bibliorossica, 2016. 3rd, corrected edition. Ekaterinburg: Izdatel'skie resheniia; Ridero, 2017.
  • Nabokov: Themes and Variations. St. Petersburg: Academic Project, 2000 [in Russian].
  • Russian Poet/Soviet Jew: The Legacy of Eduard Bagritskii. Lanham, MA and London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.
  • The World of Nabokov's Stories. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1998.


  • An Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature: Two Centuries of Dual Identity in Prose and Poetry, 1801-2001. 2 vols. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2007.
  • Voices of Jewish-Russian Literature. An Anthology. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2018.

A detailed list of Shrayer's books and publications is found at his Boston College website and at Shrayer's official site.

Further reading[edit]

  • Victoria Aarons. Jewish in America. In: The New Jewish American Literary Studies. Ed. Victoria Aarons. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019. 33-43.
  • Evgeny Belodubrovsky. Bedeker i baiki. Nezavisimaia gazeta ExLibris 19 September 2013.
  • Mary Besemeres. Travels through Russian in English: Dale Pesmen, Maria Tumarkin, Maxim Shrayer and Gary Shteyngart.” Flusser Studies 22 (2016): 1-17.
  • Dmitry Bobyshev. Shraer, Maksim. In: Slovar' poetov husskogo zarubezh'ia. Ed. Vadim Kreyd et al. St. Petersburg, 1999. 431-432.
  • Jonathan Brickman. Waiting for America: Russian Refugee Adventures in Italy. Newton Magazine (December 2007); Brookline Magazine (December 2007).
  • Rita Filanti. Migration as Translation: Maxim D. Shrayer’s Waiting for America and Trespassing Linguistic Checkpoints.” In: L’intraduisible: Les méandres de la traduction. Ed. Sabrina Baldo de Brébisson et Stephanie Genty Études linguistiques. Paris: Artois Presses Université, 2018. 319-334.
  • Julian Fürst. The Difficult Process of Leaving a Place of Non-Belonging: Maxim D. Shrayer’s Memoir, Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story,” Journal of Jewish Identities 8.2 (July 2015): 189-208.
  • Stefano Garzonio. Il fiero istante. Una cronaca degli addii. In: Maxim D. Shrayer, Aspettando America: Stories di una migrazione. Tr. by Rita Filanti, ed. and afterword Stefano Garzonio. Pisa: University of Pisa Press, 2017. 210-209.
  • Bruno B. Gomide. Maxim D. Shrayer. I SAW IT. Cadernos de língua e literatura Hebraica 12 (2015).
  • Marat Grinberg. ‘My Judaic Pride Sang’: Eduard Bagritskii and the Making of SovietJewish Identity. East European Jewish Affairs 32.2 (Winter 2002): 108-113.
  • Helena Gurfinkel. Men of the World: Diasporic Masculinities in Transit(ion) in Maxim D. Shrayer's Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration. Culture, Society, and Masculinity 1.2 (2009): 197-212.
  • Katharine Hodgson. Mirror of the Abyss. Times Literary Supplement 18 April 2014: 25.
  • Felix Philipp Ingold. Iwan Bunin und Vladimir Nabokov. Geschichte einer Rivalität. Neue Zürcher Zeitung 22 May 2015.
  • Linda Matchan. American Productivity. The Boston Globe (15 April 2008): E1; 6.
  • Nika Nalyota. Vse vperedi. Novosti literatury 24 June 2013.
  • Monica Osborne. The Future of Jewish Life in Russia. Jewish Journal 9–15 March 2018: 38.
  • Valentina Parisi. Maxim Shrayer, un’estate a “Ladispol” tra Mosca e l’America. by Valentina Parsi. Alfabeta 2 (29 July 2018).
  • Penny Schwartz, Son of Refuseniks Chronicles the Slow Dissolve of Russia’s Jews. Jewish Telegraph Agency 16 January 2018.
  • Liu Wenxia. Russian-American Writers: The New Generation of American Jewish Literature" (in Chinese). New Perspectives on World Literature 3 (2014): 55-58.

Selected interviews[edit]

Selected news features[edit]


External links[edit]