The Genius Under the Table

The Genius Under the Table

Mikhail Barysh­nikov, one of my long­time crush­es, was on CBS Sun­day Morn­ing talk­ing about his orga­ni­za­tion True Rus­sia, which grew out of his con­cern for the land of his child­hood, Latvia. Putin’s attack on Ukraine has raised threat lev­els to crit­i­cal in coun­tries that all too recent­ly gained their inde­pen­dence from the for­mer Sovi­et Union.

Thanks to The Genius Under the Table, Eugene Yeltsin’s mem­oir, I felt informed enough to under­stand what Mr. Barysh­nikov was talk­ing about … and he’s in Mr. Yelchin’s book!

Eugene Yelchin grew up in Stal­in­ist Rus­sia, the Cold War Sovi­et Union. We grow to love his par­ents, his grand­moth­er, his broth­er Vic­tor, but most espe­cial­ly Eugene. His mem­o­ries are at once sad and humorous.

Grow­ing up in a one-room apart­ment in St. Peters­burg, his moth­er worked for the Vagano­va Bal­let School. His father is a strict Com­mu­nist who loves poet­ry. His grand­moth­er is a card.

Eugene’s moth­er was deter­mined he would grow up to dance her beloved bal­let. Eugene didn’t share her enthu­si­asm. His broth­er Vic­tor is train­ing and com­pet­ing in inter­na­tion­al skat­ing. Eugene admires his broth­er but Eugene’s tal­ent, his pas­sion, is draw­ing. He hides this from his par­ents, draw­ing at night with his father’s pen­cil on the under­side of the din­ing room table, the canopy over his bed.

This is a page-turn­er. Chil­dren and adult read­ers will need to know what hap­pens next. And the humor­ous tone of much of the book will keep them riv­et­ed. I was left with a stronger sense of what life was like in that era, in that coun­try, in that restric­tive polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment. I’m hop­ing Mr. Yeltsin will con­tin­ue his child­hood sto­ry with anoth­er install­ment. I’m pre-order­ing it now. I, too, am wor­ried about the coun­tries sur­round­ing Russia.

up all night reading
up all night reading

The Genius Under the Table
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Eugene Yelchin
Can­dlewick Press
ISBN 978 – 1536215526

Mr. Yelchin did a video inter­view with Mackin about this book.

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Tricia Springstubb
Tricia Springstubb
1 year ago

I love every­thing Yelchin does! His mix of humor and poignan­cy with unfor­get­table lessons in his­to­ry is unique.