Top positive review
A portrait of a man
on 8 July 2013
Thirst is a short novella about a young man, Konstantin, who has too much vodka to fit in his fridge. His neighbour knocks on his door and asks him to send her children to bed as, apparently, he is the only person they are afraid of.
The novella then proceeds to unmask Konstantin, piece by piece. It becomes clear that he has fought in the war in Chechnya, and a bit later that he has been damaged in some way. The information is drip fed to the reader and, at the same time as he becomes physically less human he starts to emerge as emotionally more complete. By the end, he has visited his family and confronted demons from his childhood. He has spent time in the company of his fellow ex-servicemen, against whom he doesn't compare too badly. It's subtly done, but it is basically a portrait of a man and a small moment of self discovery.
The writing is spare and sharp. Gelasimov is in control of his material and creates strong images with few words. Others have commented that the clipped tone reflects a first person narration by a man who is not good with words. An alternative reading is that it is a narration by a man who has a great command of language and a considerable depth of thought, but who struggles against having been pigeon-holed by background and by injury. The ideas and feelings that Konsantin expresses are complex. The contradictions are between the role he was born for and the role he is expected to play.
Whilst the title and the cover of the book suggest an obsession with alcohol, it is more about a man who wants to resist the expectation that he should drink.