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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



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To purchase Rapture

Title: Rapture
Author: Iliazd
Genre: Novel
Written: 1930 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 224 pages
Original in: Russian
Availability: Rapture - US
Rapture - UK
Rapture - Canada
Le ravissement - France
  • Russian title: Восхищение
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Thomas J. Kitson

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Our Assessment:

B : appealing flight of fancy, grounded in (Caucasian) locale and times

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Rapture is an odd novel, a sort of adventure tale that takes on (and in) mythical proportions (and elements), set in a faraway no-place (much of it in a hamlet with an: "incredibly long and difficult name, so difficult even its inhabitants couldn't pronounce it") that is clearly modeled on the Caucasus. It is a novel of an indeterminate time but can easily pass for the lawless 1920s, with the Soviet Union slowly encroaching -- an unnamed political party figures prominently in trying to shape the political future here -- but the outback still out of the reach and control of centralized powers and a world unto its own.
       The novel begins with a Brother Mocius, journeying, as he often did, in the harsh local conditions. Brother Mocius escapes a natural death but not an unnatural one -- tossed, rather than falling, into the abyss. His death and and bizarrely sensational burial ("the believers pried the corpse from its coffin, filled the coffin with brandy, and, down on all fours, slurped it straight from the coffin", among other things) shake things up in this out-of-the-way (and set-in-its-own-(unusual-)ways) area. (As it turns out, Brother Mocius surprisingly goes on to shake things up elsewhere, too.)
       The central figure, however, is one Laurence, a worker at the local mill who had been hiding in the woods to evade a visiting draft commission. He isn't much liked at his workplace and has no friends, but he's a successful type -- "everywhere and always he was inevitably the hero". His arguably impetuous actions force him to flee even further from civilization, and he finds a haven with a local goitrous family -- 'wennies'. He also comes across the bewitching Ivlita -- "an altogether exceptional phenomenon" -- raised in comfortable isolation, and: "short on rapture".
       Laurence adopts the role of bandit -- a local overlord, who also strikes out with his band of wennies. There are road-adventures -- attempted heists, including a daring one of a train, as well as ones with larger political implications, with Laurence sensing he is being used as a pawn -- while there is always the beautiful Ivlita to draw Laurence back.
       It is a chaotic world -- with pockets of exception, as, for example:

Ivlita knew now that there was no disorder in the world and that everything was confiend in a perfect structure
       Laurence and Ivlita's union is not a happy love story of larger than life figure, and her pregnancy not the joyous culmination of their fates. Their combative relationship, and the story, doesn't have a happy end -- just the one they were fated for.
       Rapture is both traditional regional adventure tale -- adapted for and reflecting its times -- and experimental fiction, Iliazd taking liberties with story, style, and language. In upending -- in a variety of ways, no less -- readers' expectations, Iliazd's variation on this kind of tale offers very different satisfactions. A vivid, often comic, and always harsh story it veers between exciting pulp and much more ambitious mythifying near-poetry; it's also almost surprisingly accessible -- and a fun, if twisted, read.
       Rapture also comes with a thorough, fairly lengthy (over forty-page) Introduction by the Translator -- apparently deemed necessary to provide background about an author who (in this context) is almost entirely unknown as well as to situate the novel in its time, place, and the circumstances around it. All this is useful, in a way, but can also be a distraction -- the novel, like any decent fiction, stands up perfectly well all on its own.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 July 2017

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Rapture: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Russian-riting Georgian-born Iliazd (ილიაზდ; actually Ilia Zdanevich (ილია ზდანევიჩი; Илья Михайлович Зданевич)) lived in France for most his life. He lived 1894 to 1975.

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© 2017-2021 the complete review

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