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"Voinovich wields a double-edged sword here: His satire of a woman who won't loosen her grip on an outmoded, deadly ideology is brilliant. And he's just as incisive in his critique of what might be called the tyranny of liberalization, the Party's effort to enforce its new 'freedom' with the same heavy hand it had always exercised. The whole situation bristles with uncomfortable lessons for organizations struggling to reform..." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"Voinovich's novel is always engaging and often hilarious. He creates his grotesque, distorted world inhabited by grotesque, distorted people with considerable skill. He clearly possesses the Gogolian gift of finding the commonplace in the uncanny and the uncanny in the commonplace. Like many masters of the Russian grotesque, he can create characters that are simultaneously repulsive, pitiful, and strangely appealing." Jaroslaw Anders, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
From Vladimir Voinovich, one of the great satirists of contemporary Russian literature, comes a new comic novel about the absurdity of politics and the place of the individual in the sweep of human events.
Monumental Propaganda, Voinovich's first novel in twelve years, centers on Aglaya Stepanovna Revkina, a true believer in Stalin, who finds herself bewildered and beleaguered in the relative openness of the Khrushchev era. She believes her greatest achievement was to have browbeaten her community into building an iron statue of the supreme leader, which she moves into her apartment after his death. And despite the ebb and flow of political ideology in her provincial town, she stubbornly, and at all costs, centers her life on her private icon.
Voinovich's humanely comic vision has never been sharper than it is in this hilarious but deeply moving tale — equally all-seeing about Stalinism, the era of Khrushchev, and glasnost in the final years of Soviet rule. The New York Times Book Review called his classic work, The Life & Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin, "a masterpiece of a new form?socialist surrealism...the Soviet Catch-22 written by a latter-day Gogol." In Monumental Propaganda we have the welcome return of a truly singular voice in world literature.
"Voinovich is a self-consciously Gogolian writer, whose first novels, published during the 1970s, spiced the sometimes self-important prose (and posing) of the dissidents with a very earthy humor. His latest novel, which tells the story of Aglaya Stepanovna Revkina, the most ardent Stalinist ever produced by the provincial town of Dolgov, stands dissidence on its head. Aglaya, after accruing power while the iron man was alive, is expelled from the Party after 1956. Aglaya may be a narrow, fanatical Stalinist, but she is, perversely, admirable, too, especially in comparison with her conformist comrades. Through the first three-fourths of the novel, Voinovich is wonderfully deft at balancing the grotesque and the realistic. His central symbol is a frighteningly lifelike statue of Stalin that Aglaya rescues from the junk heap and installs in her apartment. In the last quarter of the novel, Voinovich takes us rapidly through the last three ages of 'Terror,' ending on a very sour note with: 'Terror Unlimited (the present time).' State repression has been replaced with hoodlum disorder in Dolgov, and the Party headquarters with a casino/strip joint. In spite of the somewhat unsatisfactory finale, Voinovich's novel is otherwise a fine study of the peculiar buffoonery of Soviet life, with its fearful conformities, petty dissidents and its decadent final decades, which Voinovich very justly terms 'somnambulistic.' Agent, Georges Borchardt. (July 20)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"If Frank Capra had been an acerbic Russian novelist and not a sunny American filmmaker, he might have written novels like Vladimir Voinovich's: funny, antic works that pit the little man against the system, ordinary folks against bureaucratic institutions and corrupt authorities." Michiko Katutani, The New York Times
"Not Voinovich's very best, but a welcome addition to a brilliantly subversive and hugely entertaining body of work." Kirkus Reviews
"Often touching...Monumental Propaganda is a novel that slashes and rips...In his translation, Andrew Bromfield deftly shifts his tone and tools as required, remaining true to Voinovich?s Vonnegut-like playfulness and appreciation of the absurd." Ken Kalfus, The New York Times Book Review
"Belly-busting comic genius...There are enough hilarious one-liners in Monumental Propaganda to make up for seven decades of Soviet earnestness." Boris Fishman, The Nation
"Monumental Propaganda, the latest novel by Vladimir Voinovich, one of the best-known and best-loved Soviet emigré writers, differs from other satires of Soviet life in that it takes that irrelevance — of ideas, of philosophies, of people, of morality — as its theme...Voinovich caricatures the cowardly toadies whose views changed along with the politics of the times, poking fun at their provincial manners and pompous declarations." Anne Applebaum, The Washington Post
From the author of The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin comes a brilliant new novel spanning 50 years of Russian history — from the tumult following the Second World War to the chaos of today's "new Russia."
About the Author
Vladimir Voinovich is also the author of Pretender to the Throne: The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin, The Fur Hat, Moscow 2042, The Anti-Soviet Soviet Union, The Ivankiad, and In Plain Russian: Stories. He lives in Munich.
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