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16 November 2018

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Book Review

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Translated by Marian Schwartz (Amazon Crossing, $14.95)

It is said that if you look at the world and don’t see its myriad problems, you are not aware. And if you look at the people around you struggling with those problems and don’t see hope, you are not alive.

Andrei Gelasimov’s vivid, concise, penetrating stories are like that. Full of the anguish, longing and pain of the world. Yet also pierced by hope and insight. And humanity.

Kostya, the narrator of this novella, has been hideously disfigured, burned in an attack in Chechnya in which he should have died. But his war buddy Genka believes you never leave anyone behind, so Kostya was saved and now must live the life of a tortured, self-pitying outcast.

In present-day Moscow, another war buddy, the homeless Seryoga, goes missing, so Genka drags Kostya from his self-imposed exile in Podolsk and they pick up Pashka (with whom Genka has had a falling out over business) and begin an extended search for Seryoga throughout the region, visiting their old war buddies, coming to grips with who they have become and what they are to each other. But in a detached, Russian male sort of way.

In Gelasimov’s skilled hands, Kostya is a sensitive soul, patient and observant, a gifted artist who thirsts to see and portray the world as it truly is. Someone we want to know better. This is a gritty, powerful, touching story.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Jan/Feb 2012