Russia, 1910. Leo Tolstoy lies dying in Astapovo, a remote railway station. Members of the press from around the world have descended upon this sleepy hamlet to record his passing for a public suddenly ravenous for celebrity news. They have been joined by a film company whose cinematographer, Nikolai Gribshin, is capturing the extraordinary scene and learning how to wield his camera as a political tool. At this historic moment he comes across two men -- the scientist, Professor Vorobev, and the revolutionist, Joseph Stalin -- who have radical, mysterious plans for the future. Soon they will accompany him on a long, cold march through an era of brutality and absurdity. The Commissariat of Enlightenment is a mesmerizing novel of ideas that brilliantly links the tragedy and comedy of the Russian Revolution with the global empire of images that occupies our imaginations today.
|Product dimensions:||5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)|
About the Author
ken kalfus is the author of a novel, The Commissariat of Enlightenment, and the short story collections Thirst, which won the Salon Book Award, and Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
Date of Birth:April 9, 1954
Place of Birth:Bronx, New York
Education:The New School for Social Research, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University
What People are Saying About This
“Inventive, unusual, humorous, ... deeply intelligent, The Commissariat of Enlightenment beautifully illuminates the hazardous powers of image, icon, and relic.”
“Kalfus is an ironist in the best late-modern Central European style: wry, humane, precise, and beautifully smitten with ideas.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've read 166 pages and am still waiting for what I expected to emerge. I expected more about Tolstoy, Lenin, Stalin, in short the early 1917 Russian Revolution, the romantic overthrow and lynching of the royal family. So far nothing. Do I keep reading and hope that it gets deep? Do I skim? Otherwise just as it is, its a boring novel. It could take place in any other place there is nothing Russian about it, so far. The author Ken Kalfus is refreshingly fair in his first part presentation. Thank you.
This was a delightful surprise to read. From the opening scenes at Leo Tolstoy's deathbed (and the surrounding media circus) to the rise of Stalin, Kalfus's blends carefully researched history, subtle social commentary and imaginative storytelling. Tolstoy's demise in 1910 presents a career-launching opportunity for a young cinematographer who's beginning to understand the power of film to change or create political reality. This knowledge comes in handy as Russia moves unsteadily from postrevolution chaos toward the bureaucratic nightmare of the Soviet state. The Commissariat of Enlightenment is one of the most powerful as the agency responsible for propaganda. The cinematographer's fate merges with that of Comrade Astapov, director of a massive Red agitprop campaign. People who choose to resist the commissariat include a church congregation that refuses to give up its faith, an experimental theater director, and a resilient young woman who makes an abstract, pornographic film in the name of sexual education for women. Kalfus recreates unforgettably the embalmer and scientist Vladimir Vorobev (who mummified Lenin), Joseph Stalin and Countess Tolstoy who anchor the plethora of plot developments. This book required patience to read, but paid off with a fascinating historical narrative of early twentieth-century Russia.
Be careful what you wish for would be a good take away from this book. While the setting is during the Russian revolution, reds vs. whites, the issues and how the issues were dealt with sound eerily familiar to things happening in the world today. Propaganda is a force which once unleashed; even the creators can fall victim to. Once a lie is told enough times it is considered to be true. A fine example of how distorted the "winners" view of history can be and the efforts which are employed to help support the "winners" view.
KEN KALFUS HAS DONE IT AGAIN. HE HAS PROVEN THAT HE IS A WRITER TO BE RECKON WITH. THIS STORY ABOUT THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION IS A PAGE TURNER WITH AN ENDING THAT MYSTIFIES.IT IS A MUST READ FOR ANYONE WHO READS.
I'd give the novel 4 and half stars if that were an option. Contrary to the opinion posted below, I did not find the book boring. I won't repeat the thumbnail descriptions given by the professional reviewers above. They are accurate and sufficient. Just wanted to say that therre is plenty of Russia in the book and plenty of contemporary America too. A good read.