Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky
PBS Summer Choice 2019
Deaf Republic opens in a time of political unrest in an occupied territory. It is uncertain where we are or when, in what country or during what conflict, but we come to recognise that these events are also happening here, right now. This astonishing parable in poems unfolds episodically like a play, its powerful narrative provoked by a tragic opening scene: when soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear - in that moment, all have gone deaf. Inside this silence, their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story then follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting their child; the daring Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theatre; and Galya's puppeteers, covertly teaching signs by day and by night heroically luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, Deaf Republic confronts our time's vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.