Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Book Talk. In the Jaws of the Crocodile: A Soviet Memoir by Emil Draitser
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Please join us for a talk with Emil Draitser, author of In the Jaws of the Crocodile: A Soviet Memoir (University of Wisconsin Press, 2021). Moderated by Mark Lipovetsky (Slavic Department, Columbia University). This event is part of our Contemporary Culture Series.

Emil Draitser dreamed of becoming a writer. Born to a working-class Jewish family in the USSR on the eve of World War II, he came of age during the Brezhnev era, often considered the nadir of Soviet culture. Bored with an engineering job, he found refuge in writing, attracting the attention of a Moscow editor who encouraged him to try his hand at satire. He spent the next decade contributing to Crocodile, the major Party-sponsored magazine known for its sharp-tongued essays and cartoons. After he got in trouble for criticizing an important Soviet official, he began weighing the heavy decision of whether to emigrate.

In this captivating memoir, Draitser explores what it means to be a satirist in a country lacking freedom of expression. His experience provides a window into the lives of a generation of artists who were allowed to poke fun and make readers laugh, as long as they toed a narrow, state-approved line. In the Jaws of the Crocodile also includes several of Draitser’s wry pieces translated into English for the first time.


Emil Draitser is a professor emeritus of Russian at Hunter College. He is the author of several books, including Farewell, Mama OdessaStalin’s Romeo Spy: The Remarkable Rise and Fall of the KGB’s Most Daring Operative; and Shush! Growing Up Jewish under Stalin: A Memoir.





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