Buida's `TZT' is a harrowing and moving novella concerning the effects of Stalinism on the lives of ordinary Russians. It follows the lives of a group of volunteers who man Station Number 9 of the track which the Zero Train runs along once a day. Nobody knows the purpose of the train, where it is going or what it is carrying, but they all know that they must keep it running smoothly. Initially they embrace their jobs with enthusiasm, willingly accepting their parts in the running of the train. As time goes on, they start to question their roles, and the point of the train. Disillusionment sets in, but they cannot stop the train. Where initially they had been willing to do their jobs, the sinister presence of an NKVD colonel is eventually required to keep them going. All of the inhabitants of Station Number 9 eventually succumb, in one way or another, to the oppression of the Zero Train.
`TZT' is obviously an allegory for Stalinism, which began with the will of the people and ended by bewildering and frightening them. The communist revolution thundered on both with or without the support of the Russian people, and eventually without their understanding, becoming an oppressive presence in their lives. The allegory is obvious, but not laboured, and the story actually becomes rather subtle in the telling. Despite being relatively short, `TZT' has some wonderfully fleshed out characters, especially Ivan Ardabyev, the closest thing the book has to a hero. The lives of all the characters at Station Number 9 are movingly recounted, so much so that the fates of all of them left a moving impression. That is no mean feat in a book of scarcely more than 100 pages, but Buida does it excellently. Although `TZT' is undoubtedly a political book, its strength lies in its characters, not in its politics. `TZT' is moving and enthralling, and a great example of modern Russian writing.