ELKOST International Literary Agency

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Don Domino (The Zero Train), 1994

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Rights are handled on behalf of Editions Gallimard

Rights sold to: France – Gallimard, Norway – Aschehoug, Russia - EKSMO, Spain – Automatica, Turkey – Dogan, UK/US – Dedalus (as The Zero Train)

Russian Booker prize nominee

 

"The Zero Train is an imaginative exploration of Soviet history that stands on its own literary achievements. Oliver Ready's translation conveys with a sure hand the power and grace of Buida's supple prose. His style is at once lyrical and shocking. The norms of Socialist Realism -- prominent in the cultural hinterland that such translations expose to our view -- are manipulated with an angry bravado in this violent elegy for Ivan Ardabyev." - Times Literary Supplement

"The Zero Train by Yuri Buida is the most remarkable book I've read this year." - Helen Dunmore, The Observer (25/11/2001)

 

The action in this novel takes place in a remote train station in the far reaches of Russia. It relates the life of the inhabitants who watch each night the passing of a train bound for some mysterious destination... A lot of comparisons have been made to try to capture the essence of this short novel – Kafkaesque, Beckett with trains, you get the picture. And whilst these may be true to a degree, it is only a small degree. Buida has his own voice and his own approach. Indeed, like all good writers he has subverted everything without once straying from a path which anyone can follow. Most importantly, he has taken what many term Socialist Realism and used it to cast a blisteringly clear light on Stalinist Russia. That this would call to mind both Kafka and Beckett (and many more beside) is inevitable.

If that is his style, his subject is both simple and infinitely expressive, with a life beyond the episodic tale. A railway line is built along which travels the Zero Train. At intervals along the track there are stations and sidings, workshops, and all the life that is lived by those who maintain all these facilities. We are given glimpses into the long, bleak, and brutal life of one such place. It encapsulates the Stalinist era, but it also lays wide open the human condition. Those who arrive at the beginning, young, with hope, are ground down through the years. Those that survive are little more than that. Survivors. Their lives have been devoted to the Zero Train, the purpose of which is a mystery. When the train goes, they must go as well. The whole book is a surreal tour de force. It sounds grim, and the realism spares no sensibilities, but at the same time it is a poetic work, and a paean to those whose whole lives were lived with the heel of the boot on their faces.