Sunday, July 7, 2019

Big Book 2: Evgenia Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina

I seem to be reading a lot of authors who create out-of-kilter worlds that demand extra attention: deciphering Alexander Pelevin’s The Four requires a reread and Alexei Salnikov’s Petrovs and Indirect left me feeling the need to repeat, too. And then there’s Evgenia Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina, which I read happily until, all of a sudden, the young heroine, Katya, met a kikimora in her kitchen in the middle of the book. Although the change felt abrupt – I’d been used to Katya’s dreary life with her parents, wretched classmates, and teacher who smokes in the classroom (whoa, shades of grad school!) and was expecting an entirely different sort of change – after reading some of Nekrasova’s short fiction, I realized she was taking it easy on her readers with the kikimora. I now feel ready for just about anything, though I’m still glad I read the book in two large chunks, before-kikimora and after-kikimora. Reading Salnikov’s Petrovs chapter-by-chapter worked best for me, too, to let the oddities and details settle. Sometimes that’s the best way to absorb them.

And so. Kalechina-Malechina is, as I’ve summarized in previous posts, a shortish novel about a schoolgirl who lives outside a large “Gulliverish” city. I jotted in my book that she’s a girl after my own heart: she owns a dumbphone, sleeps late, loves night, and is an independent latchkey kid. She’s also a lousy at needlecrafts and her teacher threatens to send her to a school for slow learners if she can’t crochet some mittens. I called the novel “edgy” earlier, too, because Nekrasova doesn’t hold back on details of daily horrors and offenses, some of which recall chernukha: beyond the inane mittens we find, among other things, a bullying boy (he even swears at school); there’s abuse (and disgusting latrines) at summer camp and with an adult who, theoretically, should be trusted; and, though I can’t find the spot, I seem to recall that a boy (the bully?) drops his pants at school. Oh and Katya breaks her prissy friend’s nice smartphone, causing a rift. After these problems, the kikimora’s appearance has an almost light(e)ning effect: there are some wonderfully comic scenes where the two of them take a train to visit a relative so Katya can play loan shark for the afternoon to collect on a debt to her father, passing off the kikimora as a visiting relative during the trip.

All sorts of other things happen in Kalechina-Malechina, which takes its title, by the way, from this poem by Alexei Remizov, though I’m less interested in the plot – and its resolutions – than the novel’s stylistics and motifs. Returning to the title, this master’s thesis (PDF here!) by Magdelena Mot notes childhood and rituals in the cycle Посолонь (Sunward or Sunwise) in which “Kalechina-Malechina” appears: Mot’s abstract notes “Posolon’ calls for the regaining of a lost cyclicity and looks back in time at the common folk’s way of life.” And “… in Posolon’ Russia is all about folklore, joyful games, tales and rituals.” This fits nicely with Katya’s experiences, where life is anything but simple but she creates her own rituals to lend normalcy where perversion – of rules, hierarchies, behaviors, and kindnesses – has taken over.

As if that weren’t enough, there’s a Platonovian (or Platonovesque?) feel to Nekrasova’s writing. There are neologisms: she constantly plays on the word “выросший,” an adjective used as a noun for “grown-up” by adding a “не-” for someone who’s not grown-up, meaning a kid, plus, as another example, Katya’s father “даладничал” (“wellfined”) in one spot after smiling. Even more important, there’s also what Dmitry Bykov calls a “платоновская тоска” (“Platonovian melancholy/anguish/yearning/pining/despair” – “тоска” is, after all, a flexible word) to what I’ll call Nekrasova’s worldview. As in Platonov, at least as I read him, there’s a sense of feeling crushed but there’s also a strange exuberance, partly, I think, because of his stylistic unusualness. That feeling, that sense, fits neatly with Nekrasova’s writing about twisted aspects of seemingly contemporary, gray (the color of poor Katya’s hair!) life outside a Gulliver-sized city.

Olesya Gonserovskaya’s illustrations 
add a lot to the book.
(Left to right: Katya and the kikimora.)

I admire those and other aspects of K-M but I think what strikes me most is a gratitude that is more social: I’ve used the word “edgy” to describe the novel and appreciate the way Nekrasova’s angle on Katya’s world, combined with folklore motifs (the kikimora), the references to Remizov, and even some humor, serve to update and enliven the chernukha genre by depicting crushingly (that word again!) awful circumstances – for a child, no less – alongside mystical and mythical elements. This occurs in Nekrasova’s short fiction, too: in “Несчастливая Москва” (“Unhappy Moscow,” where the title clearly echoes Platonov) strange daily changes in Moscow (like people suddenly speaking English instead of Russian) affect Nina, a cheerful, positive go-getter who refuses to leave the city, and in the beautifully composed “Лакшми” (“Lakshmi”) in which, hmm, a woman handles spousal abuse in a unique way. Nekrasova’s main characters’ – note that they’re all female – blend inner strength and outer, even supernatural, forces that combine to lend them abilities that empower. Although Kalechina-Malechina worked very nicely for me once I accepted the kikimora’s presence, I think the several works of short fiction that I’ve read thus far are even better because short-form fiction meshes so perfectly with Nekrasova’s direct, concise style and ability to describe social ills and various types of (that word again, too!) perversions with colorful, biting vignettes and details that feel both real and otherwordly. I’m looking forward to reading more.

This is the second 2019 Big Book Award finalist that I’ve read in its entirety. The first was Grigory Sluzhitel’s Savely’s Days (previous post), which also contains excellent illustrations.

Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual. I received a copy of Kalechina-Malechina from the publisher after Elena Shubina recommended it to me last fall. Nekrasova sent me a care package of her stories, including a collection that won a Litsei award in 2018. Thank you to all involved!

Up Next: More fun with genres and fears – a perfect combo for summer – thanks to Valeria Verbinina’s retro detective novel Московское время (Moscow Time).

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Space Oddities: Alexander (“My Favorite Pelevin”) Pelevin’s The Four

Alexander Pelevin’s Четверо (The Four), a finalist for this year’s National Bestseller Award, is something of a wonder. Before I get into the why, I’ll say that I knew next to nothing about the book before reading it and am glad I picked it up with so few preconceived notions. I won’t include big plot spoilers in this post, but I will mention a few of the motifs that I picked up in my one reading. (I realized as I read through my post that I didn’t even get around to one of the big ones. Consolation: that means I won’t spoil it!) Those motifs only partially decoded the novel for me, but even so, I’m glad I didn’t know about them before reading. You have been warned!

So, what makes The Four a wonder? Pelevin writes three story lines from what I consider three distinct genres – futuristic science fiction, retro noirish detective story, and modern-day psychiatric drama – to compose a novel where one of the key glues (and clues) is Гость на коне (“Guest on a Horse”), a poem by Alexander Vvedensky. (Four horsemen of the apocalypse, coincidence or not?) The sea is another form of glue, and this sea is often very elemental, even a sort of primeval goo from ages ago, a living being unto itself. I will say no more.

The first chapter opens in 2154, on a space ship hurtling to the planet Proxima Centaur b, located in a solar system that is (of course!) far, far away from ours. Four astronauts have just come out of eighty-seven years of stasis and it’s time to prepare for landing and research on Proxima Centaur b. The spaceship’s operating system, Aurora, is essentially a super-advanced Siri or Alexa: she’s friendly, seems to know everything, and knows Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in many languages; she’ll recite some Gumilev poetry, too. Shortly after the ship’s commander, Lazarev, refuses Aurora’s generous offer to sing “Space Oddity” in English, Pelevin whisks the reader back to 1938, to Crimea, where a certain Vvedensky ((!) I wrote “such a marked name!” in the margin), a Leningrader, has arrived to investigate a murder; strange scenes and grisly situations, including murder victims with metal stars on them, will follow. I particularly liked an unusually worldly character named Kramer, who has lived overseas, shows a scholarly bent, and feeds both Vvedensky and many feral cats. When we’re zapped forward to 2017, a psychiatrist, Khromov, is working with a patient who claims to communicate with a woman from another planet. (Three guesses where it is…) Khromov has his own issues and would love to just spend some quiet time at New Year’s with his wife and daughter, who seem close to perfect.

Twin Peaks was apparently an inspiration for Pelevin and the Twin Peaks connection does fit with certain aspects of the novel: NatsBest jury reviewer Vasily Avchenko notes, for example, the things-aren’t-always-as-the-seem element. As a long-time fan of Twin Peaks who enjoyed The Four, speaking in the broadest terms, it’s safe to say both endeared themselves to me through their oddness, twisted hominess, smartness, and otherworldliness. They’re stylish and easy to take in but filled with layers of meaning and enigmas that take multiple viewings/readings to sort. Of course that’s fun. And of course I’m missing a zillion references, not just from Twin Peaks. There’s lots from 2001 (I’ve never seen it, though I grilled my husband about HAL) and even, apparently, Aelita, which I read in my pre-blog life (there was such a time!) but don’t remember well.

Thinking back to the atmosphere(s) in The Four got me pondering (yet again) (sub)genres like speculative fiction, slipstream fiction, and new weird, largely because they tend to bend. This brought back Dmitry Olshansky’s NatsBest review, which I’ll summarize as calling The Four interesting but unsuccessful; he reads it as a B-movie sort of thriller with some artsy moments thanks to the Vvedensky and Gumilev bits. I would argue (for starters) that Pelevin’s ability to lift his wonderfully pulpy-sounding material by working the poetry – plus references to classic science fiction books and films – into not one but three plotlines goes well beyond the demands of a b thriller. Even better, Pelevin does all that without making me feel manipulated. To the contrary: I found The Four pretty stimulating and am still flipping through it to pick up on humor, ruminate on genre questions, and track motif mentions and starts of idea threads that I missed because I was so caught up in the plots. And then Pelevin’s play with time – the stasis years are an existential time warp unto themselves, plus the three plots link up – reminded me of, among others, Vodolazkin, who also mentions a plethora of cats in Crimea. (Cats!) Finally, I have to agree with another NatsBest reviewer, Natasha Romanova, that The Four’s Crimean detective track recalls Lev Ovalov’s Major Pronin novels, which I enjoyed three of in my pre-blog life.

I’ll close by saying that a kind friend with a big suitcase brought me another Pelevin novel that I’ll read soon. My recent contemplation of how I read has shown me that I’m more oriented on authors’ worldviews than ever before – books and stories by Alexei Salnikov and Evgenia Nekrasova, which are also about weird places and hidden aspects of the universe(s), are exhibits A and B – so I’m planning to read that (and perhaps Pelevin’s debut novel, too) before returning to The Four. Beyond wanting to decipher more of the novel as a whole, I want very much to be in that spaceship again with Lazarev, so far from home and trying not to think about Earth. (Ah, floaty existential moments!) Perhaps that’s why he balks when Aurora goes haywire for a bit and recites “Guest on a Horse,” a poem whose last sentence, in Eugene Ostashevsky’s translation for New York Review Books, is “I forgot about existence,/ I again/ contemplated/ the distance.”

Disclaimers and Disclosures: Huge thanks to the very kind colleague who brought me a copy of Четверо. (He brought me another NatsBest finalist, too, Alexander Etoev’s Я буду всегда с тобой (I’ll Always Be With You), though I’ve set that one aside, at least for now, after seventy-five pages. It just couldn’t hold my attention after The Four.) Thank you to New York Review Books for sending me, several years ago, a copy of An Invitation for Me to Think, a selection of poems by Alexander Vvedensky translated by Eugene Ostashevsky and Matvei Yankelevich. Ostashevsky’s introduction has been useful since the Vvedensky is clearly a key to The Four. Vvedensky and his бессмыслица (Ostashevsky suggests meaningless, absurdity, and nonsense as translations), which I know so painfully little about, are sucking me in. 

Up Next: Evgenia Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina and stories about more weird worlds.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Lizok’s Summer Reading Plan: 2019 Big Book Finalists

The Big Book Award named twelve finalists last week and I breathed a big old sigh of relief because this year’s short list looks so much better – infinitely better – to me than last year’s*. I’ve already read several of the books, all of which were very good in their own ways; a few others are already calling out to me. The list is an interesting combination of familiar and not-so-familiar authors, though there only two – Gonorovsky and Bakharevich – were completely unfamiliar to me before the Big Book Long List. Perhaps most interesting: unless I’ve really missed the point here about something, there’s only one work of nonfiction this year, a biography of Venedikt Erofeev, which pretty much had to make the finals.

  • Sukhbat Aflatuni’s Рай земной (Earthly Paradise? Heaven on Earth?) looks back at political repression during the Stalin era, apparently layering fantasy and history. (If, that is, the book’s description is to be believed!) I’m very much looking forward to this one after Aflatuni’s The Ant King.
  • Olgerd Bakharevich says his Собаки Европы (The Dogs of Europe), a 768-page book is about everything, with Belarus, Europe, the world, and Minsk being some of that “everything.” He translated the book himself, rewriting it in the process.
  • Evgenii Vodolazkin’s Брисбен (Brisbane) tells the story of a virtuoso guitar player who discovers he has an incurable medical condition.
  • Aleksandr Gonorovsky’s Собачий лес (Dog Forest, though I’m suspecting layers of meaning here…) apparently combines a lot of genres and addresses topics including historical trauma.
  • Linor Goralik’s Все, способные дышать дыхание (literally something like All Capable of Breathing a Breath, perhaps? Or maybe “Everybody”? I’m interested in figuring out how to read this title.) The brief description introducing this excerpt says the book concerns a country that’s facing a huge catastrophe and discovers that empathy can be a double-edged sword.
  • The trio of Oleg Lekmanov, Mikhail Sverdlov, and Ilya Simanovsky hit the list for the biography Венедикт Ерофеев: посторонний (Venedikt Erofeev: The Outsider). Oliver Ready’s review for The TLS notes this, which makes me look forward to the book very much: “In fact, this is not one biography but two, for between each chapter comes an interlude devoted to Moskva- Petushki.”
  • Evgenia Nekrasova’s Калечина-Малечина (Kalechina-Malechina) is vivid, imaginative, and edgy in its description of a schoolgirl who is bullied and often left to her own devices.
  • Alexei Salnikov’s Опосредованно (Indirectly perhaps? This is what a colleague and I think might fit…) is about a woman living in the Urals who writes poetry in a world that’s almost like ours, though poems have drug-like effects. I enjoyed Indirectly very much but reading it electronically wasn’t enough so I’m going to reread it as a printed book.
  • Roman Senchin’s Дождь в Париже (Rain in Paris) is about a Russian man who’s in Paris reflecting on his life in Russia.
  • Grigory Sluzhitel’s Дни Савелия (Savely’s Days) (previous post) is the first-cat narrative I so enjoyed last year.
  • Vyacheslav Stavetsky’s Жизнь А.Г. (The Life of A.G.) concerns a Spanish dictator.
  • Guzel Yakhina’s Дети мои (Children of the Volga) blends history and fairy tale motifs in a novel about a Volga German man and his daughter.
*With one exception: I’m sorry (yet again!) to see how few books written by women hit the short list. Since I don’t know what books were nominated, it’s impossible to say what the starting material was for the first two rounds of selection but, looking at the long list, I can say that I already read Anna Nemzer’s The Round (previous post) and thought it was pretty good, couldn’t quite get into Ksenia Buksha’s Opens In though it seemed well-written and solidly structured, and still have several other longlisters written by women either on the shelf to read or on order from a generous friend willing to travel with lots of book baggage. I am looking forward to reading those books and the other finalists! [Added on 6/11/2019.]

Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual. I’m a member of the Literary Academy, the large jury for the Big Book Award. I’ve translated works by three authors on the list, know a couple more, and have received copies of some of the books from various parties.

Up Next: Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina, plus some of her shorter work. And then Alexander Pelevin’s Четверо (The Four, perhaps, though I’m still not sure), which I’m enjoying for its blend of three plotlines: futuristic space travel, a 1930s detective story set in Crimea, and a present-day description of a patient at a St. Petersburg psychiatric hospital who claims to have contact with someone from another planet. It’s lively and entertaining.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The 2019 NatsBest Goes to Rubanov, Old News Edition

Andrei Rubanov won the 2019 National Bestseller Award for his Финист - ясный сокол (Finist, the Brave Falcon; I’ll keep borrowing the title from a Soviet film for now), a novel with motifs from folktales. Honorary jury chair Yury Voronin broke a tie between Finist and Evgenia Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina, each of which had two votes. Voronin said he would have gone for Mikhail Trofimenkov’s XX век представляет. Кадры и кадавры (The 20th Century Presents. Cadres and Cadavers) if that had been an option, but Cadres and Cadavers had just one other vote. The only other book to win a point in the final round was Alexander Etoev’s Я буду всегда с тобой (I’ll Always Be With You), which I’m looking forward to reading soon, thanks to a very kind colleague.

Rubanov’s win wasn’t particularly surprising given that Finist racked up thirteen points from the award’s “big jury,” second only to Trofimenkov’s fourteen. I was pleased to see Kalechina-Malechina, which I’ll be writing about soon, come in second after finding a lot to admire in Nekrasova’s colorfully written story about a young girl.

I saw the news about the NatsBest when I was sitting at the airport waiting to fly home after spending a day in New York for Read Russia’s Russian Literature Week… I clicked through to read the beginning of Finist, which, of course, feels very different from any Rubanov I’ve read since it’s set in the distant past rather than either a dystopian future Moscow (Chlorophyllia is still my favorite Rubanov book, previous post) or a very right-here-right-now Moscow, as in The Patriot, which won the Yasnaya Polyana Award in 2017. In any case, I’m interested in giving Finist a try in print – or maybe again on the reader without the distraction of gate changes and crowds of humanity walking past.

I had a very fun time in New York, traveling for a Read Russia discussion with Olga Slavnikova, Guzel Yakhina, and Ian Dreiblatt. Olga’s The Man Who Couldn’tDie and Guzel’s Zuleikha both came out in English translation (Marian Schwartz’s and mine, respectively) this year, and Ian is a wonderful translator, poet, and reader-observer, so there was plenty of “in conversation” to go around. Other than sleeping and riding the subway (never simultaneously), I spent my other hours in New York drinking coffee, wandering Central Park, and meeting and eating with my fellow panelists, other translators, other Read Russians, and the very good people of Columbia University Press/Russian Library who will release my translation of Margarita Khemlin’s Klotsvog into the world in August. They’ve done a great job with the book and I’m very excited for it to come out.

Up Next: More award news! Big Book finalists will be announced this week. Then Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina and other tales. All bets are off for what comes after that.

Disclaimers: The usual, including that I translated NatsBest secretary Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Big Wheel Effect: Salnikov’s Chilling Department

Alexei Salnikov’s Отдел (The Department), the author’s debut novel, is one of those marvelously maddening books that’s nearly impossible to write about because the experience of reading was so total, so all-consuming, and so invasive that it moved in and occupied my psyche. The visit may be permanent. Thanks to dark humor, a macabre plot, and Salnikov’s portrayal of twisted normalcy in a place that seems irreparably fragmented, The Department is a painfully (in an almost physical sense) tense book to read. Although it’s easy enough to recount plot basics – Salnikov knows how to tell a story – it’s far harder to interpret the novel because Salnikov packs in so much, so many layers: writer Shamil Idiatullin’s blurb on the back of my book offers five possible takes on The Department (including a dystopia that reinterprets/revisits American and Soviet writings or “we were just following orders”) and I could add several more, including an old favorite, the absurdity of contemporary life.

The gist of the story is that a man, Igor, who lost his job long ago, finally succeeds at finding work in a certain murky office (the department in the title) located in an old heating plant. He has a few coworkers – his boss’s first two initials are SS, leading to a nickname – who are also, for various reasons, unemployable outcasts. They all know they’re a bit off. The most immediate reason, I suppose, has less to do with their backgrounds than with their jobs, which involve killing. Sometimes they do that by making house calls, sometimes they do the job in the department’s basement, which they call Hollywood. Either way, Igor has problems at home, too. Mild spoiler: his wife (who’s pretty successful at work, frustrated with Igor’s job situation, and even mentions PMS and menopause – I think Salnikov is one of the first Russian writers I’ve read who mentions пэмээс) will end up bailing on him, taking their son with her.

For Igor, that’s something of a relief, particularly given the nature of the department’s work, which is a strong, stressful force that serves to bond the guys: they take smoke breaks together and drink together, like lots of co-workers do, making them seem pretty normal for much of the book. At least until the next killing assignment. For me, anyway, this, another variation on the banality of evildoers, is at the root of the tension I mentioned in my opener: Salnikov shifts between relatively mundane things – bureaucracy or a wife’s affair – and that killing, resulting in contrasts that remind me of nothing more than the scene in The Shining, where Danny rides his Big Wheel over bare floors (noisy) and rugs (quiet). It’s the sound that matters there, jarring the viewer each time those big wheels hit the bare floor. In The Department, the killing sure seems pointless (slight spoiler: Igor’s job is to read dozens of inane questions to the victim, for a weird interrogation about things like fear of heights, frequency of sharpening kitchen knives, and the like) and about all that we know is that it’s brutal. And that we don’t want to look. It’s as if the plot hits that bare floor, jarring the reader’s nerves and sensibilities after the soft rug of, say, Igor talking with his son (even if there is a mention of guns, aliens, and terrorism). I should add that Salnikov made a brilliant choice in choosing Igor’s part of the killings. Allegedly the victims are threats – one is a young woman and at one point, Igor wonders who will be next: someone disabled, a child, a cancer patient, or even a panda – but the killers themselves have no idea why. They even wonder if they’re aliens. As, of course, they are themselves in their society: the department’s location isn’t even on the map. What’s scariest is that Salnikov constantly forces the reader to ponder how bad these characters’ actions are, forcing the reader to ponder what they would do in, say, Igor’s place.

All that pondering – you know what they’re doing is wrong but yet… – has a Big Wheel effect on the reader, too, and ratchets up the suspense because the reader becomes so involved. Salnikov builds a world that’s ours yet not (we hope, we really hope) ours, a place where horrible things that are part of some larger plan are hidden, occult, and in the shadows at a derelict heating plant, along with characters who aren’t clued in. Salnikov wraps up the novel’s epilogue with Igor telling a small lie, a lie he wants to believe. The novel’s final paragraph speaks about lies and illusions that, essentially, hold the world together. It’s horrifyingly homey. Ignorance is bliss. Better the sweet lie than the bitter truth.

Having recently finished Salnikov’s Опосредованно (which I think I’ll continue calling Indirectly) and having picked up his Петровы в гриппе и вокруг него (The Petrovs In and Around the Flu) again yesterday, I think what endears Salnikov’s books to me is his ability to combine harsh realities – almost a variation on чернуха (chernukha) the dark-dark reality I read so much of some years ago – with humor, ordinary foibles, absurdity, and what’s hidden, be that in an occult sense or in an almost parallel world. I think there’s a new wave of very creative chernukha, thanks to writers like Salnikov, Evgeniya Nekrasova, and Elizaveta Alexandrova-Zorina (previous post), who incorporate humor, irony, and even folk motifs and occult-like elements into their writing. Their works are frightening but also playful, making them scarier.

The fragmentation I noted earlier is present in all three of Salnikov’s books, thanks to fissile nuclear families, personal and societal alienation resulting from secrets, and even structural compartmentalization in the novels themselves. I won’t be writing about Indirectly just yet because I need to reread it, in a printed edition, but now that I’ve read The Department and Indirectly, I’m appreciating and understanding The Petrovs more. I suspect the more linear Department and Indirectly showed me the way into Salnikov’s universe more efficiently than the chunked Petrovs, where I’ve always admired the material – particularly (again!) the dark humor and sharp social observations – but felt puzzled by a certain amorphousness that is beginning to make sense for me now that I’m more at home (scary thought!) with Salnikov’s writings, which are so very, very thick with observations about the twists and turns of contemporary life.

Next-day edit on The Petrovs: After learning last night about how and why Petrova is losing her mind, I’m all the gladder that I picked up The Petrovs again after reading Salnikov’s other books. I’ve long thought, perhaps even known, that the order in which I read an author’s books can be a crucial factor in understanding but this example really clinches it. I’m also very much enjoying seeing how Salnikov’s three books fit together, through common motifs/tropes/thematic elements, rather like Vodolazkin’s novels do. Best of all, I’m now feeling almost as unsettled reading The Petrovs as I did when reading The Department, in large part because I’m more attuned to the rhythms of Salnikov’s writing. I suspect the Big Wheel Effect will come back to haunt us all.

Up Next: Evgeniya Nekrasova’s Kalechina-Malechina, which I’m glad I went back to finish (I think I needed to read it in two chunks because of a big change in the middle), plus some shorter works.

Disclaimers: The usual, including collaborating with Salnikov’s literary agency. I received a copy of The Department from the organizers of the Russian stand at the London Book Fair, thank you! Salnikov was a member of the LBF delegation.