Magazine article New Internationalist

The Underground

Magazine article New Internationalist

The Underground

Article excerpt

The Underground by Hamid Ismailov, translated by Carol Ermakova (Restless Books, ISBN 9781632060440)

Hamid Ismailov's novel charts the short life and untimely death of Mbobo, also known as Kirill, child of a Siberian mother and an African athlete competing in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Abandoned by his father and suffering the intermittent, loving but drunken care of his mother and a succession of 'uncles', Mbobo reflects on 12 years of life as the poverty-stricken mixed-race victim of endemic racism in a Soviet Union teetering on the edge of collapse.

In short, punchy chapters which trace the stations on the Moscow underground, Ismailov gives us a suitably gloomy portrait of the soul of Russia, fuelled by alcohol and alternately buttressed and assailed by history. Mbobo's infant incomprehension of the forces of change swirling around him is an ironic echo of the failure of the adults to apprehend the import of what they are living through. …

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