Baize-Covered Table with Decanter describes one man's psychological torture as he faces an impending visit to be interrogated at the Table for a perceived, minor infraction. Makanin describes in some detail each character present at the Table, their purpose, techniques, and psychology. He also descibes in flashbacks the physical torture of suspects in Soviet days past and the mental torture of some as they are forcibly drugged in state mental hospitals.
Whether he intends to or not, Makanin does a good job describing the moral corruption of Russian/Soviet society. Neighbor is turned against neighbor. Bribes and sexual favors are freely exchanged. Fear rules. It seems no one is immune to this societal degradation. Baize-Covered Table leaves the reader with the impression that, although the Soviet torture methods may have diminished in recent years, psychological torture that breaks a person's spirit, mind, and body may persist... there will always be a Table in Russia.
The translation seems mediocre, although I haven't read it in Russian. Some sections were hard to follow and some word choices seemed clumsy. I do think Makanin is a gifted writer and plan on reading more of his material. He certainly has a deep understanding of Russian psychology and society. I was really impressed with the story's conclusion and his descriptions of the actual Table. Very symbolic!
This book contains a few sections with what I consider adult material that wouldn't be appropriate for pre-college readers. One scene in particular describes the sexual abuse of a corpse and is really quite disturbing.
If you have an interest in Russian/Soviet culture/history/literature this book is worth the read. It may also appeal to those with an interest in psychology and human behavior.