Posts in Fiction
Horsemen of the Sands, by Leonid Yuzefovich

In a Soviet elementary school, a bombastic teacher lectures his young students on traffic accidents and family separation, unwittingly stirring an emotional crisis. A lost wallet, an office fling, an upset stomach—the minutiae of life unveil the private tragedies at the heart of a school community.

A world away, an old herdsman entrances a young tank commander with the legend of Baron Ungern, the real-life White Russian officer who conquered Mongolia. A foggy epic unfolds, a tale of faith and revenge centering on a mysterious amulet, said to make the wearer invincible. From the dim of the classroom to the vast Mongolian steppe, Leonid Yuzefovich’s masterful novellas The Storm and Horsemen of the Sands drill straight to the core of human emotion. These Russian parables illuminate the fears, passions, and ambitions beneath the grandest acts and the tiniest gestures.

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March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Red Wheel is Solzhenitsyn’s magnum opus about the Russian Revolution. Solzhenitsyn tells this story in the form of a meticulously researched historical novel, supplemented by newspaper headlines of the day, fragments of street action, cinematic screenplay, and historical overview. The first two nodes— August 1914 and November 1916—focus on Russia’s crises and recovery, on revolutionary terrorism and its suppression, on the missed opportunity of Pyotr Stolypin’s reforms, and how the surge of patriotism in August 1914 soured as Russia bled in World War I. March 1917—the third node—tells the story of the Russian Revolution itself, during which not only does the Imperial government melt in the face of the mob, but the leaders of the opposition prove utterly incapable of controlling the course of events.

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Madness Treads Lightly, by Polina Dashkova

Only three people can connect a present-day murderer to a serial killer who, fourteen years ago, terrorized a small Siberian town. And one of them is already dead. As a working mother, Lena Polyanskaya has her hands full. She’s busy caring for her two-year-old daughter, editing a successful magazine, and supporting her husband, a high-ranking colonel in counterintelligence. She doesn’t have time to play amateur detective. But when a close friend’s suspicious death is labeled a suicide, she’s determined to prove he wouldn’t have taken his own life. As Lena digs in to her investigation, all clues point to murder—and its connection to a string of grisly cold-case homicides that stretches back to the Soviet era. When another person in her circle falls victim, Lena fears she and her family may be next. 

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Into the Thickening Fog, by Andrei Gelasimov

A French theater agrees to stage the latest work by Filippov--the mmost prestigious and lucrative opportunity of his infamous career--but first he must sever ties with his longtime collaborator and childhood friend. So the internationally acclaimed Russian director makes a reluctant trip back to his hometown to deliver the news. His journey to the Far North, where the temperature remains dangerously low all winter, unexpectedly blurs the distinction between reality and art for this virtuoso, who prides himself on his ability to create shocking scenes and outrageous situations. And after the city's power grid goes off-line, the brutal cold just might get the better of him.

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Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories, by Mikhail Shishkin

Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories is the first English-language collection of short stories by Mikhail Shishkin, the most acclaimed contemporary author in Russia, including four stories that have been published in various English-language sources (Words Without Borders, Read Russia Anthology, Spolia, the Independent) and four previously untranslated stories (including two previously unpublished in any language). Shishkin was the first (and still the only) writer to win the three major Russian literary awards (the Russian Booker, National Bestseller, and Big Book awards). He is a master prose writer in the timeless, breathtakingly beautiful style of the greatest Russian writers, such as Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Bunin, and Boris Pasternak.

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Playing a Part, by Daria Wilke

The first young adult novel translated from Russian, a brave coming-out, coming-of-age story.In June 2013, the Russian government passed laws prohibiting "gay propaganda," threatening jail time and fines to offenders. That same month, in spite of these harsh laws, a Russian publisher released Playing a Part, a young adult novel with openly gay characters. It was a brave, bold act, and now this groundbreaking story has been translated for American readers.

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Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy's romantic Anna, long-suffering Karenin, dashing Vronsky, and dozens of their family members, friends, and neighbors are among the most vivid characters in world literature. In the thought-provoking Introduction to this volume, Gary Saul Morson provides unusual insights into these characters, exploring what they reveal about Tolstoy's radical conclusions on romantic love, intellectual dishonesty, the nature of happiness, the course of true evil, and more.

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Rachel, by Andrei Gelasimov

With icons like Chubby Checker and Yuri Gagarin, the Moscow that Svyatoslav Semyonovich inhabits at the onset of the Cold War brims with the flashy visual textures of capitalism. A Jewish teenager on the hunt for black-market tight pants and rock records, Svyatoslav somehow fails to develop his undying love for Lyuba into a happy ending. He finds work in a mental institution, runs off to Kiev with one of the patients, marries a few times, has a son, becomes a professor, and halfheartedly runs interference for the KGB. Always taking great pleasure in the experiences of others, including his patients and lovers, Svyatoslav flounders through his own life but never loses sight of Lyuba, his biblical Rachel, his great love. 

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The Sublimes, by Yuri Mamleyev

Almost half a century ago, in 1966, a book was published unofficially via samizdat in the Soviet Russia. A book that both terrified and dazzled the literary establishment. This was Yuri Mamleyev's novel, Shatuny, today published in English as The Sublimes. This comical and metaphysical novel is somewhere between Dostoyevski and A Clockwork Orange, full of philosophy, humour, esotericism and spiritualism. Over the years, the novel became a cult classic, and Russia produced Mamleev's literary followers like Vladimir Sorokin and Victor Pelevin who continued exploring the limits of mankind and the dark side of humanity.

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Gods of the Steppe, by Andrei Gelasimov

It is the summer of 1945. Germany has been defeated, Hitler has disappeared, and tensions are mounting ever higher along the Russian-Chinese border…where the threat of Japanese invasion haunts.

For Petka, no life could be more thrilling and glorious than marching into battle alongside the Red Army. But he is only twelve, the bastard child of a fractured family, trapped in a village too tiny for his bursting spirit. So he must make his own adventure wherever he can find it. And if that means passing off a wolf cub as a puppy under the nose of his ferocious grandma, stealing bootleg alcohol for the bivouacked troops he worships, smuggling himself in a barrel across the border and into the line of fire, fighting for his life when his own aimless peers turn inexplicably vicious, or befriending an enigmatic Japanese POW who transcends Petka’s provincial world, then so be it.

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Harlequin's Costume, by Leonid Yuzefovich

The year is 1871. Prince von Ahrensburg, Austria's military attaché to St. Petersburg, has been killed in his own bed. The murder threatens diplomatic consequences for Russia so dire that they could alter the course of history. Leading the investigation into the high-ranking diplomat's death is Chief Inspector Ivan Putilin, but the Tsar has also called in the notorious Third Department - the much-feared secret police - on the suspicion that the murder is politically motivated. As the clues accumulate, the list of suspects grows longer; there are even rumors of a werewolf at large in the capital. Suspicion falls on the diplomat's lover and her cuckolded husband, as well as Russian, Polish and Italian revolutionaries, not to mention Turkish spies. True to his maxim that "coincidence and passion are the real conspirators," Putilin seeks answers inside the diplomatic circus as well, which leads him to struggles with criminals and with the secret police itself. When the mystery is solved, the only person who saw it coming was Putilin.

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The Lying Year, by Andrei Gelasimov

It is the summer of 1945. Germany has been defeated, Hitler has disappeared, and tensions are mounting ever higher along the Russian-Chinese border…where the threat of Japanese invasion haunts.

For Petka, no life could be more thrilling and glorious than marching into battle alongside the Red Army. But he is only twelve, the bastard child of a fractured family, trapped in a village too tiny for his bursting spirit. So he must make his own adventure wherever he can find it. And if that means passing off a wolf cub as a puppy under the nose of his ferocious grandma, stealing bootleg alcohol for the bivouacked troops he worships, smuggling himself in a barrel across the border and into the line of fire, fighting for his life when his own aimless peers turn inexplicably vicious, or befriending an enigmatic Japanese POW who transcends Petka’s provincial world, then so be it.

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Maidenhair, by Mikhail Shishkin

Day after day the Russian asylum-seekers sit across from the interpreter and Peter—the Swiss officers who guard the gates to paradise—and tell of the atrocities they’ve suffered, or that they’ve invented, or heard from someone else. These stories of escape, war, and violence intermingle with the interpreter’s own reading: a his­tory of an ancient Persian war; letters sent to his son “Nebuchadnezzasaurus,” ruler of a distant, imaginary childhood empire; and the diaries of a Russian singer who lived through Russia’s wars and revolutions in the early part of the twentieth century, and eventually saw the Soviet Union’s dissolution. 

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Thirst, by Andrei Gelasimov

A French theater agrees to stage the latest work by Filippov--the mmost prestigious and lucrative opportunity of his infamous career--but first he must sever ties with his longtime collaborator and childhood friend. So the internationally acclaimed Russian director makes a reluctant trip back to his hometown to deliver the news. His journey to the Far North, where the temperature remains dangerously low all winter, unexpectedly blurs the distinction between reality and art for this virtuoso, who prides himself on his ability to create shocking scenes and outrageous situations. And after the city's power grid goes off-line, the brutal cold just might get the better of him.

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2017, by Olga Slavnikova

2017 is part literary romance, part political thriller, and a stunning tale of adventure, fantasy and obsession. Set in the near future, on the 100th anniversary of the Revolution, 2017 reveals a Russia devoid of art and innovation, but full of danger, scandal, and wildly intriguing characters. With its harsh climate, social and ecological problems, its impoverished underclass and criminal upper class, the mythical Riphean Mountains become the perfect setting for this stunningly crafted Russian favorite.

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Oblomov, by Ivan Goncharov

Set at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when idleness was still looked upon by Russia’s serf-owning rural gentry as a plausible and worthy goal, Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov follows the travails of an unlikely hero, a young aristocrat incapable of making a decision. Indolent, inattentive, incurious, given to daydreaming and procrastination, Oblomov clearly predates the ideal of the industrious modern man, yet he is impossible not to admire through Goncharov’s masterful prose.

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White Guard, by Mikhail Bulgakov

White Guard, Mikhail Bulgakov's semi-autobiographical first novel, is the story of the Turbin family in Kiev in 1918. Alexei, Elena, and Nikolka Turbin have just lost their mother—their father had died years before—and find themselves plunged into the chaotic civil war that erupted in the Ukraine in the wake of the Russian Revolution. In the context of this family's personal loss and the social turmoil surrounding them, Bulgakov creates a brilliant picture of the existential crises brought about by the revolution and the loss of social, moral, and political certainties. He confronts the reader with the bewildering cruelty that ripped Russian life apart at the beginning of the last century as well as with the extraordinary ways in which the Turbins preserved their humanity.

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White on Black, by Ruben Gallego

This is an extraordinary personal testament, the story of one boy's triumph in the face of impossible obstacles. Born with cerebral palsy in Moscow, Ruben Gallego was hidden away in Soviet state institutions by his maternal grandfather, the secretary general of the Spanish Communist Party in the 1960s. His was a boyhood spent in orphanages, hospitals, and old-age homes, a life of emotional deprivation and loss of human dignity. And yet, there is no self-pity here, no bitterness, only an unfailing regard for the truth. Gallego's story is one of neglect and mistreatment but also of shared small pleasures, of courage, of the power of the human will, and of a child's growing fascination with books and the worlds he finds in them.

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The Russian Triptych: Collection of Stories and Novelettes, by Yevgeny Lubin

The Red Wheel is Solzhenitsyn’s magnum opus about the Russian Revolution. Solzhenitsyn tells this story in the form of a meticulously researched historical novel, supplemented by newspaper headlines of the day, fragments of street action, cinematic screenplay, and historical overview. The first two nodes— August 1914 and November 1916—focus on Russia’s crises and recovery, on revolutionary terrorism and its suppression, on the missed opportunity of Pyotr Stolypin’s reforms, and how the surge of patriotism in August 1914 soured as Russia bled in World War I. March 1917—the third node—tells the story of the Russian Revolution itself, during which not only does the Imperial government melt in the face of the mob, but the leaders of the opposition prove utterly incapable of controlling the course of events.

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