Magazine article World Literature Today

Trepanation of the Skull

Magazine article World Literature Today

Trepanation of the Skull

Article excerpt

Sergey Gandlevsky. Trepanation of the Skull. Susanne Fusso, tr. DeKalb, Illinois. Northern Illinois University Press. 2014. isbn 9780875807157

Nearly all the recognizable elements of Russian literature can be found within the pages of Sergey Gandlevsky's autobiographical novel, Trepanation of the Skull- dangerous amounts of vodka, Pushkin, a duel (of sorts), doses of superstition, pathos, cynicism, pessimism, fatalism, byzantine bureaucracy, and, most profoundly, the struggle to reconcile unjustified suffering with an omnipotent god.

Gandlevsky calls Trepanation of the Skull "a tale," which is one of the many clues to the reader that although autobiographical, truth will be secondary to artistic expression. As one of Russia's most respected contemporary poets, this preference is not surprising. Gandlevsky promises "to delight you with prose. Poetic prose. Don't expect a plot-it's this and that, the dark passages of murky associations. A mass of allusions." That the poetry of his prose resonates in translation is a tribute to Susanne Fusso's mastery of both modern, colloquial Russian and Gandlevsky's milieu. The aesthetic style enlivens the narrative's regard for the mundane-dressing the kids, getting drunk with friends, spending time at the dacha, arguing about expenses-making the ordinary interesting in a manner reminiscent of Karl Ove Knausgaard's popular tetralogy, My Struggle. …

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