In “The Dead Wander in the Desert,” we see the final, painful days of the Soviet Union, juxtaposed with the final, painful days of the Aral Sea, as a once-bountiful land dries up and turns to a poisonous, salt-filled desert. The characters in the book fight to preserve the sea, but in vain: the central […]Read more "#TranslationThursday: “The Dead Wander in the Desert” by Rollan Seisenbayev"
The Monastery Zakhar Prilepin “Humanity is dark and terrifying, but the world is human and warm.” So ends Zakhar Prilepin’s massive historical novel “The Monastery” (Обитель), about the Solovki monastery-turned-prison-camp, the seed of the GULAG system. Following the fortunes of Artyom Goryainov, a prisoner in the camp, the novel charts all the aspects of prison […]Read more "“The Monastery” (Обитель) by Zakhar Prilepin"
Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Eurasia Samuel Charap and Timothy J. Colton When protest and then war broke out in 2013/14 in Ukraine, many people in the US couldn’t find Ukraine, much less the Crimea or the Donbass, on a map, and for most people that’s probably still the […]Read more "“Everyone Loses” by Charap and Colton"
Capsoul Alex Krasnov If you like numerology, this is the book for you. A mixture of science, science fiction, fantasy, and mysticism based on numerology, “Capsoul” is the story of a group of emigres from the former USSR to the US and Canada who design a project to create a kind of “immortality machine” that […]Read more "“Capsoul” by Alex Krasnov"
What can I say about Politkovskaya that I haven’t already said? Maybe that this book, written specifically for publication abroad, is perhaps the most foreigner-friendly of her works. Unlike “A Dirty War,” which is a compilation of her early articles on the second Chechen war, or later books such as “A Russian Diary,” which are […]Read more "“Putin’s Russia” by Anna Politkovskaya"
When teaching a survey class of Russian literature, one of the more vexing questions is which text to pick. You want to give students an idea of the breadth and richness of Russian literature, but not overwhelm them with impossible page counts. Of course they SHOULD read “And Quiet Flows the Don,” “Life and Fate,” […]Read more "“50 Writers: An Anthology of 20th-Century Russian Short Stories”"
In “Wolf Hunt,” the threads of village passions come together as a group sets off on a wolf hunt that serves as a pretext for something even more murderous. Living side-by-side for decades, right through the upheavals of WWII and forced collectivization, has inflamed resentments rather than drawing people together, leading to a violent denouement. […]Read more "“Wolf Hunt” by Ivailo Petrov"