Rights sold: France - GALLIMARD, Russia - EKSMO

Longlisted for the 2018 National Bestseller literary award

Yuri Buida's new novel is set in 1990s and early 2000s, and gives an account of the post-Soviet life in Moscow. It's written as an imitation of a "B-movie" script: the style is impeccable, form exact, characters solid, and it's abundantly stuffed with eroticism on verge of porn, with bloody murders, and incredible adventures of the protagonist.

The author calls his novel "the picaresque adventure story." Indeed, according to the laws of genre, its narrative is written in first person as autobiographical account of its main character Stalen Igruyev (the name is, of course, a provocation, a game, as it has nothing to do with Stalin and Lenin); the protagonist is of low social class, he gets by with wit and rarely deigns to hold a job; the story is told in a series of loosely connected adventures or episodes, and there is little if any character development: his circumstances change, but they rarely result in a change of heart. Also, the story is told with a plainness of narrative language and extreme realism of detail: the protagonist recounts episodes of his biography, explaining his often unseemly deeds by a necessity to survive in a cruel world.

The plot starts off with Stalen's arrival in the post-Soviet Moscow of the early 1990s, the most stormy and cruel period of New Russian history, the first post-perestroika decade. He carries only a small amount of money, and a recommendation letter from his grandfather addressed to an influential Moscow lady of high standing. His dream is to become a famous writer. In the background is his childhood and adolescence spent in a provincial town, and several deaths that Stalen believes to be his fault. The lady turns out to be a hostess of a literary salon, an elite hetaera endowed with an amazing gift - as a result of some rare genetic mutation, her body remains young despite her age. At this point, begins a series of erotic experiences entwined with teaching of writing skills, and gradual improvement of Stalen's living conditions. A talented young man writes what he is told to, sleeps with whom he is commanded, and survives to the best of his abilities.

Buida masterfully merges real facts with invented circumstances. His narrative constantly balances on verge of decency, it shocks, captivates, and to certain extent is reminiscent of Beigbeder's 9.99. The novel is a multi-layered game exploring a psychological (and sometimes psychiatric) jungle of human nature. It deals with a multitude of philosophical issues, including that of existence, through the medium of adventure story, crime, erotica, thriller, suspense, and bloody trash.

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