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Glas New Russian Writing #54: Senseby Arslan Khasavov
Synopses & Reviews
SENSE is the name of the organization launched by a Narcissistic 20-year-old boy who wants to live for the sake of a lofty goal but is unable to fit into any socio-cultural framework. He yearns for glory and finally decides that the only way to win it is to stage a revolution.
SENSE paints an ironic picture of Russias political life today and shows to what limits an indifferent and hypocritical society can push a romantically-minded young person. It is about a young mans rebellious search for identity and his attempts to find some sense in the chaos around him. In his attempts to find co-thinkers the protagonist meets ex-prisoners of Guantanamo, some National Bolsheviks, the Islamic Committee, and the Youth Union Hurray!”
The protagonist, called Artur, is an idealist who wants to live for the sake of a lofty goal. Through the eyes of a person who is unable to fit into any socio-cultural framework because of his lameness, and against the background of the present-day political situation, the author shows the limits to which an indifferent and hypocritical society can push a romantically-minded and well-meaning young person.
He examines the world map and decides that Turkmenistan would be the best place for his revolutionary plan. He starts looking for followers prepared to die for a great cause and soon finds them among the members of present-day radical political organizations. He visits three such organizations: the National Bolsheviks, the Islamic Committee, and the Youth Union Hurray!” He describes their gatherings vividly and with a strong dose of irony. He meets ex-prisoners of Guantanamo, who talk to him about the imminent battle of good and evil and the fight against the infidels. He witnesses the attack of Nashi-fighters on the National Bolsheviks. Finally he visits the office of the Kremlin-supported youth movement Hurray!” where he is offered free use of all their facilities because everything has been generously paid for.”
In the final part the hero muses over the goals of his movement as he finds on his desk a curious political program which mysteriously materialized there — called Outlines of the Future State”. It starts with a chapter on reform of public heating” suggesting that houses should be heated with human excrement. The other proposed reforms are in the same absurdist style: to decree that all people should walk about naked, to ban the family and education, etc. Finally Artur drafts 136 young people and leads them to the Karakum Desert. For all of them it makes no difference what they are fighting for the main thing is to break away from their bleak everyday existence and find glory.
Young man's rebellious search for identity against the background of radical political youth movements in Russia today.
"Sense will be of interest to the English-speaking reader for its intimate vision of the world of a confused adolescent in a threatening and dangerous world. This young and courageous author has a sense of irony and humor and manages to distance himself from his hero's social preoccupations and hyperbole. The book's appeal is in its youthful immediacy."—Arch Tait
"One is infected with the author's energy and his passionate aspiration to get some sense into his life, to act, to live for the sake of something."—Literary Russia
"This Chechen boy created a portrait of dissident youth in the best traditions of Tolstoy and Turgenev."—Eduard Limonov
Arslan Khasavov is the 2009 Debut Prize winner. He works for the BBC Russian service as a columnist on Northern Caucasus.
Arch Tait, a recently retired professor of Russian literature, has many successful translations to his name, including books by Anna Politkovskaya and Ludmila Ulitskaya.
About the Author
Arslan Khasavov, born in 1988, a Kumyk by nationality living in Chechnya, graduated from the Asia and Africa Institute in Moscow upon which he spent a year at Damask University. He also took a degree from the Literary Institute. In 2008 he was nominated for the Debut Prize with his novel Sense which merited a special commendation of the jury, and in 2009 his short story collection One More Chance for Glory was again singled out by the jury. The same year the book became the finalist of the Faculty” Prize and the Astafyev Prize.
Arslan works for the BBC Russian Service as a columnist on the Northern Caucasus, and he currently lives in Moscow to avoid persecution in Chechnya for his critical articles on the political regime there.
Translator: Arch Tait is famous for his translations of Ludmila Ulitskaya and Anna Politkovskaya and has many other important titles to his credit (see his site http://www.russianwriting.com)which he has done for the best publishing houses. A Cambridge graduate he used to lecture at the University of Birmingham and was a Glas co-editor for a few years.
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