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Циники (or The Cynics) by Anatoly Mariengoff - Edit 2

Before modification by Rebekah at 31/08/2009 12:57:15 PM

Given that the Literature MB was merged into this board, I'm going to take the opportunity to post about a work of fiction that has nothing to do with Science Fiction or Fantasy. It's a book that many people have never heard of by an author that few people have heard of, and those who have heard of him probably know him due to his friendship/rivalry/hatred with Sergei Esenin, the famous Russian poet.

Yet here I am, writing a post about Anatoly Mariengoff's Циники (or The Cynics). It is a short novel that is written in short, half-page to two-page chapters, with some "chapters" only one to two lines. It intersperses the story of a husband and wife trying to survive through the Russian Revolution with short "informational" chapters that read like radio announcements or news headlines about the misplaced priorities of the Bolsheviks. Statues are going up to a long list of "revolutionaries" and cultural figures while people starve. Questions about doctrine are being argued while it is unclear if the regime will hold out against its enemies in the civil war being fought across Russia.

The book was published by a pro-Soviet publishing house in Berlin in 1928 but it was banned in the Soviet Union (this is all part of a twisted policy on the part of the Cultural Minister, Lunacharsky, to at once ban dangerous literature while showing the world that the Soviet Union cultivated "dissent" by supporting the printing of the same banned works abroad).

It raises questions about the nature of love and faithfulness and pits identity and integrity against survival. The book seems to be just scratching the surface, but by leaving so much unsaid, it leaves a deep impression. The reader is left with the same impressions, the same unspoken thoughts, the same wrenching feeling of pain, that the characters seem to be feeling. Due to the situation, it's clear why no one is having the conversations we would expect them to be having about what is happening in their lives and to their relationship with one another.

It's a short novel and a fast read, but I recommend it because it's the sort of book where you can keep looking back at it and re-asking questions about human nature, about ideologies, about relationships and about whether or not we need to over-analyze things.

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