The Soviet and post-Soviet world, with its untold multitude of crimes, is a natural breeding ground for ghost stories. No one writes them more movingly than Russian author Sergei Lebedev, who in this stunning volume probes a collective guilty conscience marked by otherworldliness and the denial of misdeeds. These eleven tales share a mystical topography in which the legacy of totalitarian regimes is ever-present—from Katyn to Chechnya, from Lithuanian KGB documents to the streetscape of unified Berlin, from the fragments of family history to the echoes of foot soldiers in Russia’s wars of aggression. In these stories, as in Lebedev’s acclaimed novels, the voices of things, places, animals, and people seek justice for a restless past, where steel claws scrape just beneath the surface and where the heredity of evil is uninterrupted, unacknowledged, unnamed.
The terrifying, lengthening list of Russia’s use of lethal poisons against its critics has inspired acclaimed author Sergei Lebedev’s latest novel. With uncanny timing, he examines how and why Russia and the Soviet Union have developed horrendous neurotoxins. At its center is a ruthless chemist named Professor Kalitin, obsessed with developing an absolutely deadly, undetectable and untraceable poison for which there is no antidote. But Kalitin becomes consumed by guilt over countless deaths from his Faustian pact to create the ultimate venom. When the Soviet Union collapses, the chemist defects and is given a new identity in Western Europe. In this fast-paced, genre-bending tale, Lebedev weaves suspenseful pages of stunningly beautiful prose exploring the historical trajectories of evil. From Nazi labs, Stalinist plots, and the Chechen Wars, to present-day Russia, Lebedev probes the ethical responsibilities of scientists supplying modern tyrants and autocrats with ever newer instruments of retribution, destruction, and control.
Sergei Lebedev discusses UNTRACEABLE with leading historian and expert in Russian spycraft Amy Knight and translator Antonina W. Bouis in an online event sponsored by 192 Books/PCG Studio in New York. Click here to watch a video recording of the program.
The Goose Fritz
This revelatory novel shows why Karl Ove Knausgaard has likened its celebrated Russian author to an “indomitable … animal that won’t let go of something when it gets its teeth into it.” The book tells the story of a young Russian named Kirill, the sole survivor of a once numerous clan of German origin, who delves relentlessly into the unresolved past. His ancestor, Balthasar Schwerdt, migrated to the Russian Empire in the early 1800s, bringing with him the practice of alternative medicine and becoming captive to an erratic nobleman who had supplied dwarves, hunchbacks from Africa, and magicians to entertain Catherine the Great. Kirill’s investigation takes us through centuries of turmoil during which none of the German’s nine children or their descendants can escape their adoptive country’s cruel fate. Intent on uncovering buried mysteries, Kirill searches archives and cemeteries across Europe, while pressing witnesses for keys to understanding. The Goose Fritz illuminates both personal and political history in a passion-filled family saga about an often confounding country that has long fascinated the world.
The Year of the Comet
From the critically acclaimed author of Oblivion comes The Year of the Comet, a story of a Russian boyhood and coming of age as the Soviet Union is on the brink of collapse. An idyllic childhood takes a sinister turn. Rumors of a serial killer haunt the neighborhood, families pack up and leave town without a word of warning, and the country begins to unravel. Policemen stand by as protesters overtake the streets, knowing that the once awe-inspiring symbols of power they wear on their helmets have become devoid of meaning. Lebedev depicts a vast empire coming apart at the seams, transforming a very public moment into something tender and personal, and writes with stunning beauty and shattering insight about childhood and the growing consciousness of a boy in the world.
In one of the first 21st century Russian novels to probe the legacy of the Soviet prison camp system, a young man travels to the vast wastelands of the Far North to uncover the truth about a shadowy neighbor who saved his life, and whom he knows only as Grandfather II. What he finds, among the forgotten mines and decrepit barracks of former gulags, is a world relegated to oblivion, where it is easier to ignore both the victims and the executioners than to come to terms with a terrible past. This disturbing tale evokes the great and ruined beauty of a land where man and machine worked in tandem with nature to destroy millions of lives during the Soviet century. Emerging from today’s Russia, where the ills of the past are being forcefully erased from public memory, this masterful novel represents an epic literary attempt to rescue history from the brink of oblivion.
Best Translated Book Award finalist and Wall Street Journal Top 10 Novel of the Year
A Very Russian Christmas
Crimson ribbons and troubled souls, landowners yearning for love, burning cheeks, salmon, and caviar. This is Russian Christmas celebrated in supreme pleasure and pain by the greatest of writers. Running the gamut from sweet and reverent to twisted and uproarious, and with many of the stories appearing in English for the first time, this collection will satisfy every reader. Dostoevsky brings stories of poverty and tragedy, Tolstoy inspires with his fable-like tales, Chekhov’s unmatchable skills are on full display in a chronicle of a female factory owner and her wretched workers, Klaudia Lukashevitch delights with a sweet and surprising tale of a childhood in White Russia, and Mikhail Zoshchenko recounts madcap anecdotes of Christmas trees and Christmas thieves. There is no shortage of vodka or wit in this volume packed with sentimental songs, footmen, whirling winds, solitary nights, snow drifts, and hopeful children. With its wonderful variety and remarkable human touch, this collection proves that Nobody Does Christmas Like the Russians.
Please consider other volumes in this series: One for Each Night, A Very Mexican Christmas, A Very French Christmas, A Very German Christmas, A Very Italian Christmas, A Very Irish Christmas, and A Very Scandinavian Christmas.