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This review is from: Moscow to the End of the Line (European Classics) (Paperback)
Moskva-Petushki, which is translated in English as Moscow to the End of the Line, is Venedikt Erofeev's greatest work, one drunken man's (Venichka's) journey on the Moskovskaia-Gor'skovskaia train line to visit his lover and child in the Petushki. En route, Venichka talks with other travelers in dialogue and he also speaks in monologue about various themes such as drinking, Russian literature and philosophy and the sad, poetic soul of the Russian peasant. As the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly dark, disoriented, hallucinogenic and surrealistic, in proportion to the narrator's alcohol intake.
Moscow to the End of the Line was written in 1970. During this time, Erofeev, himself, was traveling around the Soviet Union working as a telephone cable layer. Erofeev's friends have said the author made the story up in order to entertain his fellow workers as they traveled, and that many of these fellow workers were later incorporated as characters in the book.
The text of the novel began to be circulated in samizdat within the Soviet Union and then it was smuggled to the West where it was eventually translated into English. The official Russian language publication took place in Paris in 1977. With glasnost, Moscow to the End of the Line was able to be circulated freely within Russia, but, rather than stick to the original form, the novel was abridged in the government pamphlet Sobriety and Culture, ostensibly as a campaign against alcoholism. Finally, in 1995, it was officially published, together with all the formerly edited obscenities and without censorship.
Although he is an alcoholic, Venichka never comes across to the reader as despicable. Venichka is not a man who drinks because he wants to drink; he drinks to escape a reality that has gone beyond miserable and veered off into the absurd. He is not a stupid or pitiable character, but rather one who has no outlet for his considerable intelligence. That Venichka is very educated is obvious; he makes intelligent and well-read references to both literature and religion. However, in the restrictive Soviet Union of his time, there was no outlet for this kind of intelligent creativity; Venichka is forced to channel his creative instincts into bizarre drink recipes and visions of sphinxes, angels and devils.
Although many will see Moscow to the End of the Line as satire, it really is not. Instead, it is Erofeev's anguished and heartfelt cry, a cry that demanded change. Venichka is not a hopeless character, however, the situation in which he is living is a hopeless one.
A semi-autobiographical work, Moscow to the End of the Line was never meant as a denunciation of alcoholism but rather an explanation of why alcohol was so tragically necessary in the day-to-day life of citizens living under Soviet rule.
Moscow to the End of the Line is a highly entertaining book and it is a book that is very important in understanding the Russia of both yesterday and today as well. This book is really a classic of world literature and it is a shame that more people do not read Moscow to the End of the Line rather than relying on the standard "bestseller." This book deserves to be more widely read and appreciated.