Maxim D. Shrayer

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Shrayer, Maxim D.
Born Maksim Davidovich Shrayer
(1967-06-05)5 June 1967
Moscow, Russia, USSR
Occupation author, literary scholar, translator, professor
Ethnicity Russian Jew
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Brown University, Yale University
Notable awards National Jewish Book Award (2007) Guggenheim Fellowship (2012)
Spouse Karen E. Lasser

Shrayer, Maxim D. (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.


Maxim D. 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. Shrayer lives in Brookline, Mass. with his wife Dr. Karen E. Lasser, a medical researcher, and their two daughters.

Critical/Biographical Writing and Literary Translations

Shrayer has authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited more than ten books in English and Russian. He has translated into English works by over forty writers, including three books of fiction by his father, which he edited and cotranslated: Jonah and Sarah, Autumn in Yalta, and Dinner with Stalin. A noted scholar of Vladimir Nabokov, Ivan Bunin, Jewish-Russian literature, 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 Shrayer received the National Jewish Book Award (2007). 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.

Literary career

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. 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 transitioned to writing creative prose in English. His stories, essays and memoirs, have since appeared in American, Canadian, and British magazines, among them Agni, Kenyon Review, and Southwest Review. Shrayer's poetry and prose have been translated into Japanese, German, Croatian, Italian, Chinese 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. 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.” 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. 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."

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." Reviewing the collection in "MiltiCultural 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..."


Literary works in English:

Selected books of criticism and biography:

  • Bunin and Nabokov. A History of Rivalry. Moscow: Alpina Non-fiction, 2014 [in Russian].
  • 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].
  • 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.

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

Selected interviews


Selected news features

External links