Rights sold: Russia - EKSMO

When the Soviet-Afghan War triggered a downfall of Homo Soveticus ideology, and the Communist regime collapsed in 1991, there was an expectation, both in the West and in Russia, that the country would embrace Western values and join the civilised world. It took no account of a ruined economy, depleted and exhausted human capital and the mental and moral dent made by 70 years of Soviet rule. Nobody knew what kind of country would succeed the Soviet Union, or what being Russian really meant. The removal of ideological and geographical constraints did not add moral clarity. In particular, the intelligentsia—the engine of Soviet collapse—was caught unprepared. When their “hopeless cause” became reality, it quickly transpired that the country lacked responsible elite able and willing to create new institutions. Herman Bronnikov, a protagonist of Andrei Volos’s tetralogy Judgement Days, was one of these Soviet intellectuals.

Volos’s Traitor is set in the 80ies, in the times of Brezhnev’s rule, of the Iron Curtain, and of the KGB psychiatric repressions. Volos masterfully recreates the smothering atmosphere of life in USSR, and vividly depicts even the most insignificant details of people’s everyday routine. Novel’s protagonist Gherman Bronnikov is a personage from Volos’s previous book, Victor, where he appeared as a successful pro-Soviet Moscow author, who secretly writes a novel about atrocities of the Soviet regime. When the authorities discovered that some excerpts from Bronnikov’s unauthorized novel have been published in a foreign Russian-language magazine, Bronnikov faced a difficult moral choice: to collaborate with the regime or to lose all his privileges and to continue writing in accordance with his conscience.

Bronnikov have chosen to oppose the regime and converted into a ‘dissident’ writer. Soon his career and life was completely ruined by the KGB. He was refused to publish his books, later involuntarily hospitalized into a mental hospital, and finally was forced to hire himself as a concierge.

By in-depth description of Bronnikov’s and other dissidents’ fate, Andrei Volos explores the phenomenon of inevitable, tragic confrontation between human behaviour and the totalitarian mechanism. In Volos’s novel two realities cross, one of his own, and the other of Bronnkov’s personages from Stalin’s times. The protagonist of Bronnikov’s ‘novel inside of the novel’ went through Stalin’s GULAG saving his dignity and reputation. Bronnikov’s opposition to the regime proved to be even a harder task, and its consequences remain unknown.

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