Anti-Soviet dystopia first published in 1938, after the author had been travelling in Russia during the period of the show trials. Published a decade before Orwell’s 1984, it deals with the political use of fear and the millenarianism that underlay secular politics of the time.
In a large family business the elder brother cuts out a dictatorial role for himself, creating a claustrophobic tension that can be resolved by only one thing: death. Skilfully pared down, this novel is evocative of so many incongruities in human relationships.
A cynical and narcissistic Italian journalist travels around Scotland to report on the Scottish independence referendum. His encounters and adventures provide a complex yet humorous take on the question of nation in the present day.
Joseph Kirkland, who is being brought up in a strict religious community, is torn between his beliefs and his non-religious friends and his own doubts. This witty and acutely observed novel does not take sides but reveals how humanity usually wins out where different world views coexist.
Skujins is an original stylist capable of deploying acute psychological observation as well as clever and often witty imagery, and Uldis Balodis has managed to retain this in his excellent English translation. This novel will introduce the reader to a different world precisely because of the writing and the freshness of the dialogue, and not so much for the society it depicts, which resembles in some ways the mass society that also existed in Western Europe at the time, reminding us that even in those more hopeful times, the human condition was still a struggle with desires, ambitions and the image of ourselves we wish to project.
This monumental work by Estonia’s greatest writer is a European classic which has for too long been neglected in the English-speaking world. It tells the story of how Tsarist Estonia developed into the First Republic through the experiences of a family.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in a house of clocks, a house that ticked like a bomb. Officially, Olive’s only been gone one day, but Grace knows she’s been lost much longer. Her schoolmate’s disappearance forces Grace to recall the dark secrets she and Olive still share – including the one that shattered their friendship four years ago, the one that haunts Grace now. With the adults around her caught up in their own dramas and deceptions, Grace struggles to make sense of her past and present before she too becomes lost.
‘Memoirs of a Life Cut Short’ inveighs against the falseness of a system that slowly crushes everyone in its wake. We see the development of an ordinary person in Soviet conditions who in one way or another becomes part of a system that is almost impossible to escape from or change. In 14 letters from beyond the grave, Leonas Ciparis delineates his life from his earliest days up until his last; his rise from lowly beginnings to the upper echelons of the Communist Party, illustrating the nature of the new Soviet person.
In the beginning the page was blank and without form, and the scribe sat in front of it, a world forming inside his head. The world grew large, spilling out of him and on to the page. The scribe shaped the world into an island. He named it Fagero, and populated it with an assortment of likely and plausibly unlikely characters, and saw that it was good for his purposes. The people of Fagero were often divided against each other but united in their appreciation of their happy little island. Then the dead bodies began to arrive: hordes of them, washing ashore with no identification and no one to claim them. The island was changing, and the small-town quirkiness becoming less restrained. And the bodies kept arriving, forcing Fagero’s inhabitants to confront the unhappy truth that, even on their remote island, the world’s horrors and injustices could not be ignored.
A middle-aged judge driven by curiosity and the intellectual challenge of his work, a nervous and neurotic young historian willing to run all manner of risks to uncover the state crimes of the forties, a nerdy, well-educated and good-natured young journalist motivated principally by the desire to enjoy life and not to dwell on the miseries of the past, a KGB general once responsible for some of the purges and now an Islamist radical, an inept, capricious and delightfully self-aware Jewish actor, and an Islamic cleric loyal to the Soviet Union, whose murder has so many repercussions, all these carefully constructed characters could be found in any society but Alessandro Barbero has brought them to life in one of the most elusive, unstable and neglected historical realities: Gorbachev’s Russia.