on 15 January 2007
Unlike most so-called 'drug fiction', the narrative of Ageyev's novel is actually multifaceted,and although the cocaine abuse of the protagonist, Vadim Maslennikov, is an important aspect of the novel, it does not constitute its single overriding theme. As the protagonist recalls his bourgeois Russian adolescence, the reader is given an insight into the peculiarities of his schoolyard fraternity as well as his sadistic attitude towards his well-meaning mother. His sexual encounters and flawed relationship with a married older woman also play an important role in the novel's narrative. Cocaine is finally introduced more than half way into the novel, and the intense paranoia, which the protagonist experiences from its usage, is vividly described. The nihilistic philosophising, which its usage provokes appears as reminiscent of Dostoyevsky as the protagonist's eventual ruination. In short, this is a fantastically bleak, at times humorous, Russian novel that seldom gets the recognition it deserves. It also predates the supposedly iconic, but actually quite banal, drug fiction that came out of America in the twentieth century in the form of Kerouac et al.
on 24 November 2013
In a world thick with mea culpa addiction stories and 'inspiring' tales of those who've overcome it, this near century old story still stands alone in my opinion.
The author captures the moments, the feelings, the changes of a descent into addiction and the growing irrelevance of current events. That these current events were the Russian revolution only underscores the brilliance of the depiction.
Belongs in any Top 100