"Unfortunately, AQUARIUS OVER ODESSA will remain the author's final work; the tragic accident that took his life in 1994 has deprived Russian literature of one of its more promising talents." (Joseph P. Mozur Jr., World Literature Today)
The astrological sign of change, Aquarius, bodes neither peace nor goodwill for Mitrofanov's blue-collar hero Semyon Stavraki, a deep-sea diver working in the rough and bustling port of Odessa. Stavraki, an orphan raised in the ruins of postwar Odessa, claims the city as his mother and proudly credits her with having taught him honesty, respect, and tolerance for others. Nevertheless, Stavraki's story illustrates how bad things can befall good people, and his fortunes take a disastrous turn precisely when the star sign appears over the city.
The first-person narrative opens with Stavraki's homecoming from a prison camp in the north of Russia. He tells his life story to a fellow passenger on die train home, a situation reminiscent of that in Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata. As the train draws nearer to the hero's beloved Odessa, the tale picks up intensity, and the idyllic portrayal of Stavraki's love and marriage to a waitress suddenly gives way to a tragic chain of events culminating in his trial and prison sentence for murder.
Stavraki's tale is in many ways an extended metaphor -- life is a plunge into the depths. As the novel progresses, Mitrofanov's hero becomes more and more convincing and real, as do the circumstances in which he lives in the post-Soviet era.