“Lost Pages wasn’t the only bookshop I frequented, but the books I found on its shelves were… unique. I never saw any of these books anywhere else. Bizarre Bestiaries. Dictionaries of dead, obscure languages. Maps to lands that may never have been. Essays on religions with unfamiliar names. Obscure mythologies. Accounts of wars no history teacher had ever mentioned. Such were the wares of the bookshop that fed my teenage dreams.”
|(Oleg Kashin photo / Restless Books)|
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.”
“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)!
There are so many wonderful examples of fantastic literature just waiting to be discovered, and Malvern Books glitters with a wealth of rare and hard to find literary gems. So, after a successful year hosting a variety of authors and their fabulous books, we’ve decided to expand the Fantastical Fictions series to include a book club.
On Thursday March 23 at 7:00 p.m., we’ll be discussing John Wyndham’s final novel Chocky. Completed in 1968, this story originally appeared as a novelette in Amazing Stories in 1963
From the back cover:
“It’s not terribly unusual for a boy to have an imaginary friend, but Matthew’s parents have to agree that his–nicknamed Chocky–is anything but ordinary. Why, Chicky demands to know, are there twenty-four hours in a day? Why are there two sexes? Why can’t Matthew solve his math homework using a logical System like binary code?”
“Chocky, …is a playful investigation of what being human is all about, delving into such matters as child-rearing, marriage, learning, artistic inspiration–and ending with a surprising and impassioned plea for better human stewardship of the earth.”
Even if you haven’t heard of John Wyndham, it’s a good bet that you’ve heard of his work. As a writer he hit his stride after World War Two and, much like Philip K. Dick who came after, tapped into the zeitgeist of the times. Like PKD many of his works where transformed over and over into radio plays, movies and TV shows.
His novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, came to the big screen (more than once) as the Village of the Damned. Perhaps even more famous is the screen adaptation of his tale of vegetable monsters, The Day of the Triffids.
In 1984 the BBC adapted Chocky into a television series for children, which would seem to suit gentle, but no less fascinating story.
Malvern is stocked with extra copies of this brief novel, and there’s plenty of time to read it before the meeting, but since this isn’t school, there’ll be no quiz! No worries if you haven’t read it, or have no intention to. If you enjoy discussing books–especially the type that don’t concern themselves too much with the rules of reality the rest of us have to live by, then come and spend an hour with us.
Hello again! I’ve been busy not blogging. Busy doing what you might ask? Well, talking with Robert Jackson Bennett for one. Here’s the first half of our interview at Malvern Books for their Fantastical Fictions reading series. You can read a bit more about him and this event here. And, not to leave you hanging, here’s the link to the second half of the interview.
It was great fun discussing what goes into crafting great stories and creating imaginary worlds. Having read some of Bennett’s work I can vouch that he is excellent at both.
His newest book, City of Miracles, is about to drop in May. It is the third book in his Divine Cities series (which means you have time to get up to speed with City of Stairs and City of Blades before spring). BTW, Malvern Books should still have some signed copies of City of Stairs and City of Blades.
If you’re looking for something a little more literary in the great American horror tradition, consider picking up a copy of American Elsewhere.
“Mad and humorous, gory and poignant, American Elsewhere is a sort of mid-20th-century retelling of the embodiment of Lovecraftian Elder Gods by way of Alamogordo’s legendary atomic tests. It’s not to be missed.” ―Seattle Times
Let’s see, what else? You can also check out my review of Room Magazine over at The Review Review.
And on the home (fiction) front, I’ll have a short story publication to announce soon. I have also finished a rather involved revision of a novella, which will be on it’s way to some lucky editor before the year is out. Then it is on to/back to ‘the novel.’ More about that in the next post – next Thursday.