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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Moscoviad

Yuri Andrukhovych

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Title: The Moscoviad
Author: Yuri Andrukhovych
Genre: Novel
Written: 1993 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 183 pages
Original in: Ukrainian
Availability: The Moscoviad - US
Moscoviada - France
Moscoviada - Deutschland
  • Ukrainian title: Московіада
  • Translated by Vitaly Chernetsky

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Our Assessment:

B+ : effective picture from the time of the Soviet collapse

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 30/9/2006 Wolfgang Schneider
NZZ . 16/8/2006 Ulrich M. Schmid
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Summer/2009 Michael Pinker
TLS . 22/5/2009 Uilleam Blacker
Die Welt . 12/8/2006 Gerhard Gnauck
Die Zeit . 28/9/2006 Helmut Böttiger

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "Andruchowytsch hat seine allegorische Phantasie ebenso mit Science-fiction und Horrorfilmen wie mit den Unterweltsklassikern von Dante bis Poe genährt. (...) Moscoviada ist ein glänzend geschriebenes, von Sabine Stöhr glänzend übersetztes Buch -- was nicht leicht gewesen sein dürfte angesichts des manisch aufgekratzten Grundtons und der vielfältigen Sprachspielereien. Es ist eine volle Ladung "Bubabu", wie Andruchowytsch das karnevalistische Gebräu nannte, mit dem er und einige Mitstreiter die spätsowjetische Ukraine literarisch unsicher machten. Das Imperium wird weggelacht." - Wolfgang Schneider, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Moscoviada bietet eine ebenso vergnügliche wie lehrreiche Lektüre. Die russische Hauptstadt ruht hier nicht in sich selbst, sondern wird beständig von aussen durch einen verfremdenden Blick dargestellt." - Ulrich M. Schmid, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Andrukhovych’s overheated imagination, like that of his protagonist, knows no restraint in this wild spree of a novel, merrily stomping on the grave of socialist realism." - Michael Pinker, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "The fragmented and chaotic structure of the novel is reflected in its language. Yuri Andrukhovych mixes poetic prose in Ukrainian with phrases of mostly obscene Russian, hybrid forms of Ukrainian-Russian dialect and the odd snatch of German or English. Vitaly Chernetsky concedes that much of this is untranslatable and makes few efforts to indicate the novel's linguistic variety. He does a good job of opening the novel up to the English-language reader, mainly through concise and unobtrusive footnotes; but his translation is marred by some literal translations of Ukrainian idioms and syntax." - Uilleam Blacker, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Anders als im späteren Roman Zwölf Ringe (deutsch: 2005) tritt in Moscoviada gelegentlich das Pamphlethafte, die Abrechnung mit der Sowjetunion und dem großrussischen Chauvinismus, stark hervor. Dafür entschädigen die sprühende Phantasie und die üppige Sprache. Moscoviada handelt von einer "bitteren Zeit, in der alles ringsumher zerfällt und nichts mehr zueinander passt". Eine gute Zeit für die Literatur." - Gerhard Gnauck, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Московіада is set during the time of the collapsing Soviet Union, the central character, Otto von F. -- like Andrukhovych himself in those years -- a Ukrainian poet who is a student at the (in)famous Gorki Institute, the Soviet answer to the creative writing MFA-programme. It begins with an amusing run-down of Soviet writing-school life, particularly in the dorms where Otto lives. From all corners of the Soviet Union, there's quite a cast of characters -- and writing is often the last thing on their minds. (Writing is on Otto's mind, but he's painfully blocked here, Moscow seemingly have driven the Ukrainian muse right out of him.)
       Otto notes that Moscow is considered the largest Ukrainian city, with a million Ukrainians living here, but he's still somewhat out of his element here. Hard drinking is one way to come to grips with everything, but even vodka seems in short supply (or is at least hard to get one's hands on) in these tumultuous times. Both the alcohol and the general irreality of life in the city (and the city itself) contribute to an almost hallucinogenic feeling to much of what he experiences, culminating in a maze-like netherworld that is the province of officialdom he eventually finds himself trapped in.
       Moscow is not a melting pot, but rather over-boiling cauldron. Many of the other writing-students Otto lives with also come from the most exotic parts of the crumbling Soviet Union, with talents (or not) who write in obscure languages carefully fostered -- but many see their presence in Moscow only as an opportunity to become large-scale traders, import-export men travelling back and forth between their home-states and the city of opportunity. Otto's ambitions are literary, but neither the dorms nor the Institute nor Moscow are conducive to his writing.
       Several traumatic events also have their effect, from the accident one fellow student has while making an alcohol-run from the seventh floor to earlier attempts, after the publication of his first book, by the authorities to blackmail Otto into collaborating with them. The official recruitment-attempt is fairly effective, but it's part of a state apparatus that is -- though still seemingly omnipresent -- already tending towards collapse. When Otto's wallet is stolen (along with his plane ticket back to Ukraine) he chases the thief and finds himself in the bowels of Moscow, a surreal other-world that mirrors the general loss of control the authorities have (that rat-project has gotten completely out of hand, for example).
       The spectacular conclusion allows Andrukhovych to have it both ways, Moscow state control forcing Otto to the most desperate act, which acts also as release and allows him (some) return to the motherland. It's the ultimate indictment of the Soviet system, a very direct (and memorably narrated) charge of what it did -- if perhaps not as obviously -- to almost everyone.
       Many of the usual Andrukhovych-touches can be found in Московіада, from the playful literary references (including to the poet Andrukhovych, and his Bu-Ba-Bu colleagues) to the surreal feel and carnival atmosphere (including a masked-ball-like scene). Written (generally except for the dream-passages) in the second person to fairly good effect, it also shows his usual creative flair (which only threatens to get out of hand a few times). And while much of the humour tends towards the absurd, there are some nice simpler touches too (including the student who 'only learnt French so that she might be able to read War and Peace in the original').
       Московіада is a novel of a particular historical moment, and is obviously not as readily accessible to Western readers as to a (former) Soviet audience. Nevertheless, it's bright and creative enough to impress even without full comprehension of all the references, and makes for an enjoyable read. Moscow has, meanwhile, become yet another city, but this picture is surely among the best of it at that specific time.

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The Moscoviad: Reviews: Gorki Institute: Yuri Andrukhovych: Other books by Yuri Andrukhovych under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Ukrainian author Yuri Andrukhovych (Juri Andruchowytsch, Юрій Андрухович) was born in 1960.

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