Siberia

Siberia

by Nikolai Maslov
     
 

In 2000, Nikolaï Maslov, a night watchman and self-taught artist, asked Emmanuel Durand, a French book salesman in Moscow, to look at three panels from a graphic novel he had drawn. Stunned by the intensity of the work, Durand offered Maslov a modest advance to quit his job and finish the book. The result is this extraordinary visual portrayal of Russian life

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Overview

In 2000, Nikolaï Maslov, a night watchman and self-taught artist, asked Emmanuel Durand, a French book salesman in Moscow, to look at three panels from a graphic novel he had drawn. Stunned by the intensity of the work, Durand offered Maslov a modest advance to quit his job and finish the book. The result is this extraordinary visual portrayal of Russian life and spirit.

Awash in alcohol from the first pages to the last, Siberia charts Maslov’s bleak path through the labyrinths of the Soviet system, from the desolate Siberian countryside, to military service with the Red Army in Mongolia, to the psychiatric hospital where he was admitted after his brother’s death. Drawn entirely in pencil on paper, the book’s nuanced gray tones document with unremitting clarity and delicate nuance the austere Siberian landscape, the bad vodka, the daily brawls, the cynicism and violence of life in Siberia, but also the perseverance and hope of those in this often neglected but fascinating part of the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
The backstory of this graphic novel may be as compelling as the book itself. Maslov, a Muscovite night watchman, handed a visiting French editor some pages from what became this book. Impressed, the editor offered Maslov an advance, enabling the middle-aged artist to finish the book and, for the first time in his life, live as a working artist. This book is the story of Maslov's life. Drawn entirely in soft, impressionistic pencil, it follows his upbringing in Siberia in the 1950s through his army conscription and service in Mongolia, an utterly absurd riff on the tragicomic life of a Soviet soldier in the '70s. These scenes are so strange, so dazed, that they take on a hallucinatory glow. It also tracks his descent into alcoholism and despair, followed by his slow ascent out of that chasm. At times the drawing is stiff and na ve, and the translation is spotty, but Maslov's wry, cracked voice always shines through the formal problems. His is a voice from history, and his pencil drawings, which sometimes seem to shift as you look at them, drives that home. Even at his most horrifyingly real, Maslov is a friendly confidant, waving at the audience from what feels like a distant planet. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

In 1996, Moscow's Pangloss bookstore had just gotten in the Russian translation of the French comics series Astérix. A man who seemed like a Siberian peasant looked around for a bit and then approached the bookseller. He'd started a comic about his own life, and he asked if the bookseller would finance his finishing it. Yes, indeed, and Siberia was first published in France as Une jeunesse soviétique. Few graphic novels have come to the West from Russia, and this one offers a fresh and lyrically disquieting view behind news stories and facades for tourists. Growing up in a tiny Siberian village, young Nikolaï joins his peers in drinking, fighting, and construction work. Then comes a Kafkaesque stint in the Red Army, a series of jobs, and a mental breakdown. Throughout, Nikolaï keeps drawing, attending art school for a while, and even working for a gallery where the big sales are in portraits of Lenin. His soft, nuanced pencils render the calm sweeps of countryside, parties awash in vodka, and meaningless military rituals of his stark and troubling life with surprising sophistication, given his minimal exposure to graphic narrative models. Unfortunately, the translation omits glosses for most signs and other background text. For older teens up and a required purchase for university and most public libraries.
—Martha Cornog

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781933368030
Publisher:
Soft Skull Press, Inc.
Publication date:
04/17/2006
Pages:
98
Product dimensions:
8.10(w) x 11.50(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

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