Even for a man on "the very best terms with the very best people," the Soviet Union on the eve of glasnost is a precarious place. So it goes for bitterly compelling antihero Anatoly Pavlovich Sukhanov, richly crafted in this debut novel by Russian migr Grushin. After starting out as an avant-garde artist, Sukhanov marries the daughter of an iconic Soviet painter, becomes a critic and quickly rises to editor-in-chief of Art of the World, an influential journal devoted to disparaging the Western art that once inspired him. An enviable Moscow apartment, a dacha and a personal driver follow, but 12 years later, Sukhanov can no longer write, his wife and son know him for the sellout he is, and Gorbachev's ascension may mean the end of his sinecure. When a man claiming to be his long-lost cousin comes to visit, Sukhanov finds himself sleeping on his couch, where, as dreams of his former life haunt him, his past may catch up with him for real. Grushin, who has served as former President Carter's personal interpreter and as an editor at Harvard's Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, offers a powerful and richly detailed examination of late Soviet society's harsh confinements-even for those who have all the right connections. (Jan. 5) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
There are two extraordinary things about this book: it exudes the wisdom of maturity in a first novel, and the young, Russian-born author writes beautifully-in English, her second language! On one level, Grushin recounts the comfortable life of fiftysomething art critic and former artist Anatoly Sukhanov, who enjoys all the perks of a pre-Gorbachev existence, until the arrival of a mysterious cousin at his family's capacious Moscow apartment. As his secure life begins to fray and then unravel, Sukhanov, who had the potential of brilliance as a young artist but eventually joined the Soviet establishment, is forced to confront the loss of his beloved wife, his two children, his editorship at the country's leading art magazine, in a word, his identity. Though an absorbing chronicle of life at the end of the Soviet era, this is really much more-a meditation on society, art, truth, and life. This time the publisher has it right: "that rare debut that requires no hype." Simply stunning. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Edward Cone, New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A Russian artist's compromise with Soviet bureaucracy provokes a surreal midlife crisis in this first novel by Russian-born Grushin. Anatoly Sukhanov, editor-in-chief of an official Soviet art magazine, becomes increasingly disoriented following a birthday celebration honoring his father-in-law Malinin, an "approved" artist who-in the fiery words of Sukhanov's radicalized younger self-had "sold his soul to the devil" for wealth, fame and freedom from political oppression. Now, Sukhanov's beautiful wife Nina sorrowfully accuses him of having done the same-as they grow ever further estranged. Other disapproving perspectives on his failures as both art's representative and paterfamilias are offered by teenaged daughter Ksenya, whose liberal beliefs mock his, and adult son Vasily, a suave careerist who's a far more skilled "operator" than Sukhanov himself. Initially nondescript or neutral, increasingly threatening encounters and incidents begin to unhinge Sukhanov, stimulating fragmentary guilty memories of his childhood and youth. A meeting with a former friend and fellow artist who didn't "compromise" (and hasn't prospered); the unexpected visit of an apologetic cousin whom Sukhanov can't remember having met; a contretemps at his office when Sukhanov's article on Salvador Dal' is "bumped" by a freelance essay on maverick Russian painter Marc Chagall-all trigger both reminiscences and hallucinations that "bring . . . him closer and closer to the forbidden edge of a personal darkness he had not leaned over in decades." Grushin has imagined both Sukhanov's carefully managed life and his richly troubling personal history with a detailed intensity that fruitfully echoes Solzhenitsyn's bestbooks, Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" and John O'Hara's Appointment in Samarra. Brilliant work from a newcomer who's already an estimable American writer. Agent: Warren J. Frazier/John Hawkins & Associates
“As masterly and lovely a novel as one could ask for. . . . Embers is perfect.” The Washington Post Book World
“A lustrous novel. . . . [with] its powerful undercurrent of suspense and its elegantly wrought armature of moral and metaphysical argument. . . . Triumphant.” The New York Times Book Review
“The reader will . . . be . . . very quietly nailed to the spot . . . mesmerizing. . . . In every way . . . satisfying.” Los Angeles Times
“Tantalizing. . . .Brilliant. . . . [Marai’s] words resonate.” —The Wall Street Journal