Breaking Stalin's Nose
by Eugene Yelchin
Breaking Stalin's Nose Foreignness and the Other Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph), (Chapter.Figure)
"Watch out, Amerikanetz!" he yells, and rams into me so hard, we fly into a snowdrift. He calls me Amerikanetz on account of my mother. (12.1)
How does this slur compare to others that you might be familiar with that relate to ethnicity? In what ways is it different? Do we really see different ethnicities in Yelchin's novel?
Four-Eyes is Borka Finkelstein, the only Jewish kid in our class. His parents were arrested at the beginning of the year and now he lives with relatives. (12.3)
This pretty much tells us all we might need to know about how Jewish people were viewed in Sasha's world. Borka is the "only" Jewish kid in Sasha's class, and Jewishness is immediately linked with being a criminal. Oof.
We call him Four-Eyes because he wears eyeglasses. Anybody who's not a worker or a peasant and reads a lot, we call Four-Eyes. (12.3)
So, Four-Eyes is an "other" on two different levels. He's Jewish, which already makes him an outcast and suspect. And as if that's not enough, the kids go and make something silly like wearing glasses a mark of otherness. This isn't quite as trivial as it looks, though. Notice how Sasha tells us that any person who is "not a worker or a peasant and reads a lot" is called Four-Eyes? Well, some communist dictators in the past actually made wearing glasses an offense punishable by death (because it was linked with being an "intellectual").