ELKOST International Literary Agency

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Return to Panjrud 2013

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Rights sold to: China - The People's Literature, Macedonia - Antolog, Serbia - Russica, Slovenia - CANKARJEVA ZALOZBA, Russia - OGI

Winner of the 2013 Russian Booker Award & Student Booker Award
Winner of the 2013 Bunin Award
Shortlisted for the 2013 Big Book Award
Longlisted for the 2013 NOS Award
Longlisted for the 2013 Yasnaya Polyana

 

12 years after the publication of his famous Hurramabad, in his new work Andrey Volos turns again to his beloved Middle Asia, though this time his novel is set not in modern times, but in the Middle Ages.

Recognized master of a realistic 'masculine' style of writing, and at the same time a sensitive and benevolent observer, Volos like no other writer feels and understands the East, so mysterious and attractive for Westerners. His Return to Panjrud is a delicate, subtle, deeply psychological narrative which is largely experimental by its nature.

The novel's protagonist is Rudaki (858-941), a legendary Persian poet. Early in his life, the fame of his accomplishments reached the ears of the Sultan, who invited the poet to his court in Bukhara, where Rudaki became his highly honored companion. It is claimed that he well deserves the title of the father of Persian literature, or the 'King of poets'; he was the first who impressed upon every form of epic, lyric and didactic poetry its peculiar stamp and its individual character. Аround 940 AD, Rudaki eventually fell out of Sultan's favor, later was tortured, blinded, and expelled from the palace. After this, he went back to the small town of Panjrud where he was born, and died shortly after.

In Volos's novel, we see the old blind poet on his final way home, accompanied only by one illiterate boy, his 'eyes'. During this long walk through dusty, deserted roads of Persia, Rudaki remembers the days of his glory. Recently blinded poet learns to see the world around him through sounds, smells, tactile sensations, and the reader receives the detailed depiction of this world as perceived by Rudaki. At the same time, Rudaki teaches his guide boy to read, transmitting him not only reading skills, but his experience and art of thinking, thus initiating him into the culture. In his conversations with the boy, Rudaki recounts the years he has spent at court, full of subtle oriental intrigue, politics, and constant struggle for power, which the poet had witnessed and sometimes been part of.

Volos succeeds in recreating an original spirit of ancient Persia through perceptions and memories of his blind protagonist; the novel is overfilled with verbalized sensory feelings, and features a symphony of sounds and flavors. In addition, Volos's style of writing is extremely cinematic; his descriptions and dialogues at any moment draw reader's attention to particular subject, matter, detail, gesture, or character.

Thus, Volos's Return to Panjrud is a broad metaphor of the way of human life, the way to understanding of one's own self.