Don't Die Before You're Dead

Overview

World-famous since the sixties as Russia's most renowned poet and political dissident, Yevgeny Yevtushenko has written an extraordinary epic novel about life, love, and politics in contemporary Russia. The attempted overthrow of Gorbachev's government in 1991 is the background for this ambitious work, the author's first novel in over a decade. In this stunning amalgam of autobiography, political thriller, love story, and sharp satirical comedy, Yevtushenko chronicles the lives and times of a large cast of ...
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Overview

World-famous since the sixties as Russia's most renowned poet and political dissident, Yevgeny Yevtushenko has written an extraordinary epic novel about life, love, and politics in contemporary Russia. The attempted overthrow of Gorbachev's government in 1991 is the background for this ambitious work, the author's first novel in over a decade. In this stunning amalgam of autobiography, political thriller, love story, and sharp satirical comedy, Yevtushenko chronicles the lives and times of a large cast of characters, some fictional and some real.

Infused with a passionate lyricism and vision, this stunning, extraordinarily insightful, autobiographical novel about life, love, and politics in contemporary Russia, written by renowned poet and political activist Yevtushenko, presages all too accurately the strife that grips Russia today.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In what Russian poet Yevtushenko calls an autobiographical novel (but in which he makes only occasional appearances), he weaves together a series of stories about people caught up in the events of August 1991, when an attempted coup against President Gorbachev led to a people's counter-coup and the coming to power of Boris Yeltsin. Written in swift, vivid prose full of humor and lyricism (and superbly translated), the book is an eloquent panorama of Russia's confusing present and often terrible past. The principal characters are Lyza Zalyzin, a former soccer star fallen upon drink and decay, who finds a new reason for living in the 1991 revolution; the love of his life, the amazing and passionate Boat, with the bluest eyes, hands like hams and a heroic passion for climbing everything in sight; special investigator Stepan Palchikov, the ultimate insider, who wants nothing so much as to win back his disaffected wife; an enigmatic and unnamed Soviet Marshal who is at the heart of the coup's failure; and sundry real personages like Gorbachev and Yeltsin, great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and former foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Yevtushenko's own appearances show him dealing with his fears at a call from the KGB in early years, improvising a ``very bad'' poem when called on to make a speech from the parliamentary balcony at the height of the counter-coup excitement, facing off in a confrontation with the new Russian cynics. He is piercingly empathetic about the two conflicting personalities he sees living inside Gorbachev, and offers indelible glimpses of Yeltsin trying to improve his tennis and in search of some native vodka from a store selling only imports. This is at once a highly sophisticated political novel and a deeply touching series of vignettes about unforgettable people caught up in a world they never made-certainly Yevtushenko's finest prose work to date. Author tour. (Nov.)
Library Journal
In this autobiographical novel about the attempted coup d'tat in the former Soviet Union in August 1991, the Russian "White House" is like the head of an octopus linked to various citizens who are caught up by its sucker-bearing tentacles. Citizens, in turn, struggle to free themselves, but having been intimidated by the state for so many decades, they are mired in a confusion of fear and new-found independence. Yevtushenko's cast of characters, who include ordinary citizens and government apparatchik, traverse each tentacle on their way to the barricades, revealing their dreams for the future and the desires and disasters of their past. Through their voices and the daily minutiae of their lives, Yevtushenko paints a clear portrait of the Russian soul. Yevtushenko's novel has as many facets as a diamond. No library should be without it.-Olivia Opello, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Booknews
The Russian poet and dissident who hit the world stage in the 1960s is back with a novel, his first in over a decade. It combines autobiography, political thriller, love story, and satirical comedy against the backdrop of the attempted 1991 coup to overthrow Gorbachev. Translated from Ne unmiral prezhde smerti, and apparently widely circulated in Europe, though no dates or publishers are identified. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Janet St. John
Blending autobiography and sharp political commentary into a novel on Russia just prior to the 1991 ousting of Gorbachev, poet Yevtushenko again demonstrates his political activism through writing. Some of his harshest criticism is voiced by his characters: "We're fighting against corruption, but corruption and hypocrisy are just two sides . . . of the same coin." Government attempts to cajole prominent citizens like Yevtushenko into spying and threats of restraining citizens from leaving the country are the more obvious signs of political weakness and a bully mentality often associated with Communism. No wonder disenchantment, antipathy, and alcoholism loom like dark clouds over the stories told here--and seem still to hang over Russia, shadowing the people's hopes for a better future. Although this novel is fresh in its attempt to interweave memoir, love story, and political satire, it is, at times, a bit confusing for the reader who is asked to shift modes again and again. Still, through this process, the reader can continually ask, "What is truth?" --an effective tool for provoking thought about the novel's actions and Yevtushenko's witnessing of political machinations played out within Russia. The work is urgent and honest, dark and absurdly humorous, and lyrical--a sad picture, but one we all can learn from.
Rich Nichols
While he is best known as a poet (he has published 42 collections of verse) Yevgeny Yevtushenko is also a vigorous and original novelist, as Don't Die Before You're Dead, about the events surrounding the attempted coup in Russia in 1991, demonstrates. The narrative adroitly mixes the experiences of a varied cast of fictional characters caught up in the coup with portraits of a number of actual figures, including the plotters, Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev and even Yevtushenko himself. There are some wonderfully staged scenes in Moscow as the opposing sides, almost equally submerged in confusion, jockey for position. The tense hours leading up to the coup's collapse, as the demonstrators surrounding Yeltsin in Moscow waited with a mingled sense of defiance and fatalism for the Army to attack, are described here with a gripping, vivid particularity.

Yevtushenko has always been a wonderful mimic of voices, and that talent is on display here. The large cast remains distinct, memorable. Indeed, many of Yevtushenko's fictional characters exhibit greater complexity than his portraits of the public men and women who staged or opposed the coup. There is one problem: Don't Die seems at times to fall uncomfortably between genres, wavering from novel to memoir. This happens when Yevtushenko steps back from the action to hector those of his fellow citizens who have (he thinks) misrepresented his actions during and after the coup. These outbursts disrupt the action but, fortunately, they are infrequent. Don't Die Before You're Dead is, for the most part, a stirring celebration of one of those rare moments when something essential seemed to be decided. --Salon

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679445746
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/31/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 3.05 (d)

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