â€ś[An] impressive first novel.â€ť â€”Carmela Ciuraru, The New York Times
â€śRich in history and far-reaching in scope, The Invention of Exile is an achingly painful and all too relevant meditation on what can happen to identity when human beings are crammed inside an unforgiving container of politics, bureaucracy, and fearâ€¦[A] wonderful first novel.â€ťÂ â€”Boston Globe
â€ś[An] assured debutâ€¦Manko paints a complicated and richly human portrait of the specific loss and separation that borders imposeâ€”a timeless subject that resonates with particular relevance in the contemporaryÂ moment.â€ťÂ â€”San Francisco Chronicle
â€śA stunning, dream-like exploration of geographical and psychic bordersâ€¦ Manko weaves through time and place poetically, presenting striking images.â€ť â€”Interview magazineÂ
â€śWistful, perceptiveâ€¦ A poignant tale of an immigrant’s loss and longing.â€ťÂ â€”Christian Science MonitorÂ
â€śThe summerâ€™s surest candidate for lit-hit crossover.â€ť â€”New York Magazine
â€śMankoâ€™s debut thrums with longing.â€ťÂ â€”Vanity Fair
â€śA superb study of statelessnessâ€¦Manko brings plenty of energy to this taleâ€¦Manko is a tremendous stylist, using clipped, simple sentences to capture Austinâ€™s mindset as his confidence in escape erodes but never entirely fades; Mankoâ€™s shift in perspective toward the end of the book reveals just how much the years of exile have weathered him. She deeply explores two complicated questions: What is the impact of years of lacking a country? And how much does thisÂ lack reside in our imaginations? A top-notch debut, at once sober and lively and provocative.â€ť â€”Kirkus Reviews (starred)
â€ś[A] fine fiction debutâ€¦ The beating heart of Mankoâ€™s story is Austinâ€™s determination to be reunited with his family.â€ťÂ â€”Publishers Weekly
â€śMankoâ€™s debut is a potent examination of the costs of pride and fear as well as the redemptive power of familial bonds.â€ť â€”Booklist
â€śBeautifully written and deeply affecting. . . The novelÂ reminds one, at times, of Kafka, Ondaatje, and even, in itsÂ powerful evocation of marooned isolation, Robinson Crusoe.Â A brilliant debut.â€ťÂ â€”Salman Rushdie
â€śA voice for the years to come. . . It is an unflinching portraitÂ of how our lives are structured around the complicationsÂ of geography, beauty, and chance, and, at its core, it is a storyÂ about those who live in the double shadows of home and history.â€ťÂ â€”Colum McCann, author of Transatlantic
â€śThe Invention of Exile is an achingly immediate, sensuous, and psychologically acute novel about a man whose life has been suspended by the madness of American politics. The book moves deftly between past and present and from one consciousness to another to create a narrative of high emotional tension that turns on the fate of its exiled central character, the Russian born ‘Austin.’ Mankoâ€™s tender, compassionate, and wise portrait of this man, who waits and waits and waits to return to the life he was meant to live, continues to reverberate inside me. I suspect I will carry him around with me for years to come.â€ťÂ â€”Siri Hustvedt, author ofÂ What I Loved and The Summer Without Men
“Only writing like Vanessa Manko’s, so finely tuned to subtle and nearly inexpressible emotions, to the whispers of deepest loneliness, to the inner-life of a man cut-off from family and country by the capricious machinery of politics and prejudice, can draw such a secret, marginal, puzzling life out of the shadows, and give it the vivid force and poetry of a universal myth. The novel’s depiction of Austin [Voronkov] is so intimate and moving that I felt, as I read, that I was living his desperate life myself. The Invention of Exile is a beautiful, bewitching, and profound novel.”Â â€”Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name
“Vanessa Manko’s fantastically ambitious and rewarding novel, The Invention of Exile, lovingly and carefully details the terrible but wondrous twining of one man’s fate with Russian, Mexican, and American history.”Â â€”Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
â€śVanessa Manko is a true artist with words. Every locale, every scene, every emotion and interaction of characters is vividly created, all through observation of the small details and habits of daily life. The pain of exile, the loneliness, the futility of Austin Voronkov’s efforts to reclaim his life, the injustice of the events which have brought him to his desperate existence; all these weigh more heavily as the story of his months and years brings the tension to a heartbreaking pitch. The ending is so right. On the one hand, so anticlimactic, on the other so fraught with the understanding of what lies ahead for Austin. Manko’s writing is stunning, and she is able to move so beautifully between past and present. This is an unforgettable debut.â€ť â€”Betsy Detwiler, founder of Buttonwood Books in Cohasset, MA
Day 1: January 19, 1920
Q. What is your name in Russian?
A. Ustin Voronkov.
Q. Inasmuch as you do not believe in God,Â will you affirm to tell the truth?
Q. Where were you born?
A. Province of Kherson,Â Alexandriyska, Ulesd, BokasÂ Volost, village of Varvarovka.
Q. Are you married or single?
Q. Where is your wife now?
A. She lives in Bridgeport onÂ Locust Street.
Q. When were you married?
A. There was no ceremony.
Q. In other words you were never marriedÂ to this woman religiously or civilly?
A. There was no ceremony.
Q. How long have you lived withÂ this woman?
A. About one and one half years.
Q. Why have you not married herÂ according to the laws of this country?
A. Because we live withÂ her family.
Q. Does she sleep with you?
Q. Why did you say that youÂ were married?
A. Because we gave anÂ oath together.
Q. Did she ever sleep in your room?
Q. Did you ever have sexual intercourseÂ with her?
A. Not officially.
Q. You are employed by theÂ Russian Commission?
Q. What factory?
A. Remington Arms.
Q. What is your occupation?
A. An inspector.
Q. Of what?
Q. Ever belong to the Union ofÂ Russian Workers?
A. I didnâ€™t belong.
Q. There is such an organization as theÂ Union of Russian Workers in Bridgeport?
A. There was.
Q. There still is?
A. It seems they made it better,Â but the Union of RussianÂ Workers has an automobileÂ school in Bridgeport.
Q. Was it known as the SovietÂ Automobile School?
Q. We have information that this schoolÂ was run and conducted under the auspicesÂ of the Union of Russian Workers. Did youÂ know that?
A. I donâ€™t know anything aboutÂ this. I think the Soviets started itÂ and then the pupils took it overÂ for themselves.
Q. You mean the Union of RussianÂ Workers started it?
A. No. The Soviets of Bridgeport.
Q. What do you mean â€śthe Sovietsâ€ť ofÂ Bridgeport? We have no â€śSovietsâ€ť inÂ this country.
A. It was called â€śSoviet.â€ť
Q. Have you an automobile?
Q. Why were you interested inÂ automobiles?
A. Because I was in the automobileÂ business.
Q. Were you financially interested in theÂ automobile business?
A. I am interested in every kindÂ of knowledge.