Pub date: September 14, 2012
Shorlisted, 2012 Danutla Gleed Literary Award
In a bold, brilliant collection of stories, Dora Award-winning playwright Anton Piatigorsky delivers a superbly inspired inquiry into the early lives of the 20th century’s most notorious tyrants. In The Iron Bridge, he is unafraid to push at the boundaries of the unexpected as he breathes fictionalized life into the adolescents who would grow up to become the most brutal dictators the world has ever known.
We discover a teenaged Mao Tse-Tung refusing an arranged marriage; Idi Amin cooking for the British Army; Stalin living in a seminary; and a melodramatic young Adolf Hitler dreaming of vast architectural achievements. Piatigorsky dazzlingly explores moments that are nothing more than vague incidents in the biographies of these men, expanding mere footnotes into entire realities as he ingeniously fills the gaps in the historical record. The Iron Bridge, completely imagined yet captivatingly real, captures those crucial instants in time that may well have helped to deliver some of the most infamous leaders in history.
“Anton Piatigorsky has found a rich gothic seam in 20th-century dictatorship, and, in six subtle and learned tales, sets the genre upon the weird adolescences of Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Rafael Trujillo and Hitler. The Iron Bridge is such a rich text, based on such weighty sources (definitive biographies and “speculative psychohistories” appear in the acknowledgements), that each story demands essays and dissertations in response. Piatigorsky solves historical fiction’s dilemmas with enviable skill and originality.” — National Post
“That these monsters-to-be are given such convincing humanity is a testament to Piatigorsky’s delicate craft, his patience and subtle creativity with the historical material at hand, and insight into the darkest possibilities of the human mind.” — Publishers Weekly
“Provocative. There are many ways to try to understand the makers of genocidal or nationalist catastrophe. The least effective method is to dismiss them as monsters, as inhuman freaks of nature with no foothold in our own culture. Piatigorsky’s approach runs counter to this tendency, as he uses his playwright’s skills to dramatize his reading of character by way of such mundane aspects as adolescent angst, unsettled erotic yearning, family squabbles or personal weakness. Piatigorsky, a two time Dora Mavor Moore Award winner for his playwriting, is skilled at dramatizing these situations by way of dialogue and detailed settings.” — LRC
“Piatigorsky never attempts to answer the question about human nature. Each of his characters is carefully constructed, and the reasons behind why they would go on to become menacing figures and murderers of such magnitude are left to the reader’s imagination. This is the strength of The Iron Bridge: the idea is not to explain, but to narrate. These are good stories — well-written, interesting, and engaging. The premise is not a gimmick, so much as a jumping-off point for the fiction. The Iron Bridge is an intriguing idea, well executed.” — Quill and Quire
“A clever and convincing collection. The stories, which all seem plausible, provide us with some real insight into the protagonists’ manipulative minds, thus providing perspective into their adult actions as murderous psychopaths.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“Piatigorsky’s unobtrusive merger of fiction and history, both cultural and personal, into the stream of his narratives, points to a gathering black cloud on the horizon beyond each conclusion. All stories are gripping and structurally intelligent.” — SubTerrain
“Piatigorsky’s stories are fictional, but they come to life as earnestly as if they were true: his characters are so well-drawn that the scenes played out by the adolescent Mao, and young Soso Stalin, and finally a sulky and explosive Hitler, do indeed seem very real, very possible. Piatigorsky does a beautiful job of setting the stage for each episode in a way that makes every one a new and exhilarating foray into these vulnerable and volatile psychological spaces. An engaging and active read that successfully gives us the glimpse at possibilities, giving us something to explore through fiction in a way that reality cannot.” — Maple Tree Literary Supplement
“With an invigorating mix of classic storytelling and inventiveness, Anton Piatigorsky's pitch-perfect, acutely attuned stories delve deep, and far, and wide. The Iron Bridge is an assured, unique collection.” — Pasha Malla, author of The Withdrawal Method and People Park