Tense from the beginning, Not Russian by Mikhail Shevelev covers a wealth of history in this sharp political thriller. Pavel enters a living nightmare when he hears his name being read out on television, summoned by Vadik – a friend from the past who is keeping people hostage in a village church outside Moscow. As Pavel is sent in to negotiate with the terrorists with a looming sense of dread, he begins to reminisce about his shared history with Vadik and the different paths that have led them to this point.
Considering the ongoing conflicts, this is a timely story which asks pertinent questions: about individual human involvement and responsibility, and the impact of remaining silent or actively protesting. There is a strong emotional aspect covering war, emigration and the power of friendship. It’s not necessary to have a full understanding of recent Russian history, though you may feel inclined to delve deeper into past events to discover the full backstory.
There’s a certain journalistic style to the writing from the author’s English-language debut, deftly captured by translators Brian James Baer and Ellen Vayner. A captivating story laced with humour and feeling despite the tragic elements.
Not Russian, Mikhail Shevelev [trans. Brian James Baer & Ellen Vayner] (Europa Editions)
Price: £14.99/£10.99 Ebook. Info: here
words RHIANON HOLLEY