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Gods of the Steppe [Paperback]

Andrei Gelasimov , Marian Schwartz
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Price: 7.64 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

3 Sep 2013

It is the summer of 1945. Germany has been defeated, Hitler has disappeared, and tensions are mounting ever higher along the Russian-Chinese border…where the threat of Japanese invasion haunts.

For Petka, no life could be more thrilling and glorious than marching into battle alongside the Red Army. But he is only twelve, the bastard child of a fractured family, trapped in a village too tiny for his bursting spirit. So he must make his own adventure wherever he can find it. And if that means passing off a wolf cub as a puppy under the nose of his ferocious grandma, stealing bootleg alcohol for the bivouacked troops he worships, smuggling himself in a barrel across the border and into the line of fire, fighting for his life when his own aimless peers turn inexplicably vicious, or befriending an enigmatic Japanese POW who transcends Petka’s provincial world, then so be it.

By turns comical, harrowing, poignant, and exhilarating, Petka reveals the soul of a boy who knows only to take from life all that he can—not merely what his circumstances allow.

Nominated for the 2014 Rossica Translation Prize.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossing; Reprint edition (3 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611090733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611090734
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,605,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Andrei Gelasimov was born in Irkutsk, one of the largest cities in Siberia, in 1965. He went on to study foreign languages at the Yakutsk State University, as well as directing at the Moscow Theater Institute. In 2001 he came to popular literary acclaim in Russia when his story “A Tender Age,” which he originally published on the Internet, was included in an issue of the journal Oktyabr, and his novella and collection of short stories, Fox Mulder Looks Like a Pig,was released. Gods of the Steppe is his third novel to be published in English, following Thirst, for which Booklist praised “Gelasimov’s spare prose and pointed dialogue,” and The Lying Year, which was developed into a motion picture. Gelasimov’s work has garnered the Apollon-Grigorev prize and a Belkin prize nomination. Gods of the Steppe won the 2009 National Bestseller award in Russia.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Satisfying Read 20 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The opening pages of this prizewinning Russian novel (National Bestseller Award 2009) reminded me of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The barefoot pre-teen hero, Petka (pronounced P-yet-ka), is engaged in a battle of wits not with Aunt Polly but with his equally spirited Granny Daria. His misdeed, besides the irremediable sin of having been born a bastard, is having left a shed door open, allowing Granny Daria's goats to escape and find a meal on her vegetable plot. As the battle rages, Petka - ever the patriot - imagines himself commanding a Soviet tank. That in turn reminded me of Ben Rogers' arrival, in the guise of a Mississippi steam boat, to help Tom whitewash Aunt Polly's fence.

Gods of the Steppe is, however, several shades darker than The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It is set in Trans-Baikal (i.e. East of Lake Baikal), in the south of Siberia, alongside the border with China, a border defined by the river Argun. The timing is the month of July and the first days of August 1945. Victory over the Nazis has been secured - and Petka is well-informed about some of the battles, especially the tank battle at Kursk; also that Hitler has 'gone missing' - but further action against Japan is still pending.

Close to the village in which Petka lives is a Prisoner of War camp. The prisoners are a mix of Japanese and other nationalities. Imported American tanks and other weaponry are being prepared for the expected invasion of Japanese occupied China. American whiskey and canned meat are also to hand.

Petka is of course drawn to the camp and with liquor stolen from his grandfather, a smuggler, he ingratiates himself with a couple of soldiers stationed there. Various adventures follow.

Meanwhile, we learn something of two of the Japanese detained in the camp.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful 14 Jun 2014
By The Emperor TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This was a little bit different. It is not always an easy read due to the nature of the events being depicted and the style of writing.

It can be frustrating at times but ultimately it is a rewarding read.

I would rate at three and a half stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A different side to Russia 24 Oct 2013
By J. R. Atkinson VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am generally interested in all things Russia but seem to spend much of time on the literature and history of west Russia. This made for a refreshing change, being set in Trans-Baikal. It is well written and translated. An enjoyable book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Gods of the steppe 28 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
A fresh but at times confusing plot. The narrative of the Japanese doctor is surprisingly the clearest. I enjoyed the adventures of petka and his quest to search for his own identity and place in the world.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Culture in transition 14 Aug 2013
By Son of Nietzsche VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Gods of the Steppe" is a difficult novel to review; translated from the original Russian, it is inevitably hard to judge the extent to which the nuances of the original have survived. Unlike many novels addressing the War experience, "Gods of the Steppe" focuses not on the frontlines or the wife-left-behind, but instead offers a portrait of the context of WWII through the voices of 12-year-old Petra and a Japanese prisoner-of-war, set in a small town close to the Russian/Chinese border.

While the book's synopsis hints of a coming-of-age novel, the work is instead rather a portrayal of the cultural forces operative at a particular moment of history. As such, it is more a novel about abrasive tensions - rural/city, old customs/modern ways, State hierarchy/village community - than about the War, or about characters or personalities. Understood and read as such, the novel could be rewarding in its bleak evocation of culture in transition, dying spirit and the institution of a different, modernist order.
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