Fantastical Fictions Book Club: Fardwor, Russia! by Oleg Kashin

(Oleg Kashin photo / Restless Books)

It’s time again for another Fantastical Fictions Book Club. On Thursday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m., we’ll convene around the big table at Malvern Books to discuss Oleg Kashin’s Fardwor, Russia!

This slim novel is a  fascinating breezy read, if you can call a dark, satiric dystopia “breezy.” It offers a glimpse of Russian culture and its complaints. 

The publisher’s website describes the book this way:

     “When a scientist experimenting on humans in a sanatorium near Moscow gives a growth serum to a dwarf oil mogul, the newly heightened businessman runs off with the experimenter’s wife, and a series of mysterious deaths and crimes commences. Fantastical, wonderfully strange, and ringing with the echoes of real-life events, this political parable fused with science fiction has an uncanny resonance with today’s Russia under Putin.
     Oleg Kashin is a notorious Russian journalist and activist who, in 2010, two months after he’d delivered the manuscript of this book to his publishers, was beaten to within an inch of his life in an attack with ties to the highest levels of government. While absurdly funny on its face, Fardwor, Russia! A Fantastical Tale of Life Under Putin is deadly serious in its implications. Kashin’s experience exemplifies why so few authors dare to criticize the state—and his book is a testament of the power of literature to break the bonds of power, corruption, and enforced silence.”

Dmitry Samarov, in his review of the book for the Chicago Tribune says:

“Absurdity is piled upon absurdity, but none of it is taken as anything but a matter of course by anyone involved. There is a long tradition of this sort of storytelling in Russia. From Nikolai Gogol’s “The Overcoat” in pre-Soviet times to Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” and onward, writers have had to address the insanity of their society through indirect or fabulist means. “Fardwor” is no fairy tale. Kashin grounds his story in everyday reality. Karpov finds out his wife has left him because she has unfriended him on Facebook; the oligarch, Kirill, is named to head the organization charged with making the upcoming Olympics in Sochi a success.”

All sorts of strange madcappery goes on in this pages, yet this is a book where the author’s story is at least as interesting as the tale he tells in these pages. Kashin is a well known journalist and blogger who regularly writes about political issues in Russia. Shortly after turning the manuscript for this book in to his editor, he was severely beaten in what appears to be a politically motivated attack. This edition of the book comes with a thorough and engaging introduction to both the book and the author by Max Seddon, World Correspondent for BuzzFeed News. 

For more about Oleg Kashin’s story here check out Oleg Kashin’s Horrible Truth: A journalist is beaten nearly to death in Moscow. Is this a deliberate crackdown, or something more subtile — and more sinister?


Read Kashin’s open letter to Putin/Medvedev here

For extra credit, check out Like, share, tweet: Social media meets the Russian revolution.

Pick up a copy at Malvern today, and join us next Thursday to discuss (whether you’ve read it or not)!

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