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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Fardwor, Russia !

Oleg Kashin

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To purchase Fardwor, Russia !

Title: Fardwor, Russia !
Author: Oleg Kashin
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 204 pages
Original in: Russian
Availability: Fardwor, Russia ! - US
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  • Russian title: Роисся вперде
  • Translated by Will Evans

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Our Assessment:

B : genial contemporary Russian satire

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Dallas Morning News . 15/1/2016 Daniel Kalder

  From the Reviews:
  • "Kashin writes in a digressive, conversational, vaguely Gogolian style that is captured in a breezy translation by Will Evans (.....) Kashin’s moral outrage at federal authorities becomes stronger as the book progresses. (...) Kashin succeeds at depicting the absurdity and corruption of 21st-century Russia, even if he fails to sustain the original tone of laughter in the dark all the way to the end." - Daniel Kalder, Dallas Morning News

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:

       Sharp though much of its satire of contemporary Putinesque Russia is, Fardwor, Russia ! remains surprisingly genial. Shifting its focus, and narrating much obliquely rather than directly, it doesn't render what happens harmless, but makes many of the horrors almost incidental -- itself a condemnation of Russian conditions, where the absurd and outrageous has become so everyday that it barely stands out any longer.
       Fardwor, Russia ! begins with hobby-scientist Karpov and his wife, Marina, moving back to his old hometown from Moscow -- not a move that she is thrilled about (it's: "not even a real town, but rather a neighborhood district that was part of the small city"). In Soviet times, Karpov's grandfather had been involved in work on: "something very mysterious -- 'petroleum growth substance'", and while that program went under Karpov has been tinkering with something similar and now dedicates himself to perfecting it. Basically it is a growth serum -- and he's making good headway. (One early problem: he can't figure out how to make the growth-effect stop, so when his test rats are the size of large sheepdogs he has to put them down.)
       Marina has her doubts, some of the locals are worried about the possible consequences on the local meat market, and the head of the local research institute (which, in a typical post-Soviet era fate: "had not been doing any scientific work for some time now; instead it had been earning cash by renting out its facilities and land") wants to get in on the action. Karpov remains focused on his work, and then on the next step: human trials. Not that he proceeds very scientifically: he pays off the first midget he can find (a circus performer) and it is not exactly a controlled experiment.
       But it works. One midget leads, circuitously, to another: one of two brothers that are heirs to an oligarch-empire, Mefody Magomedov -- who is thrilled by his transformation: "With every new centimeter added life became more and more wonderful". His brother, who has been running the billion-dollar show, is less enthusiastic when full-size Mefody shows up .....
       Large-scale corruption on every level, including the Russian Olympics-hosting plans and development scams, are layered in throughout. Kashin's story veers -- or drifts, almost amiably -- across a wide cross-section of happenstance horrors, individuals caught up -- often by accident -- in a crushing machinery that remains utterly indifferent to individual fates; a little (and soon very big) boy lost is just one of the examples. Much of the destruction and violence is almost casual, and taken as a matter of course, simply to be expected; perhaps most surprising is how little sense of outrage seethes anywhere here. Kashin's Russia is a fatalistic (and fatal) world.
       Kashin's tone and presentation make for what one could almost call the charm of the novel. Even accepting Karpov as a single-minded, near-oblivious scientist, it's endearing to find it only sinking in that his wife has left him when he see she has 'unfriended' him on Facebook (as is the rest of his reaction to her leaving him).
       Kashin effectively avoids focusing on the various workings -- whether Karpov's scientific research (essentially all done entirely off-scene) or government or corporate decision-making -- and instead only shows the often almost mystifying consequences. Typically, he begins the book with Karpov and Marina's move to the boondocks with Marina going along with Karpov's plans but without any real idea about (or much enthusiasm for) why they are doing this; like many in the novel, she is a pawn who has little say, control, or input. (Later, she does (try to) take control -- of sorts; her actions seem almost impulsive --, abandoning her husband for a while, but here too greater powers mess with any sort of plans or hopes.)
       There are scenes from all over Russian life, with the novel's truly absurd premise (of a miracle-grow drug) one that almost seems somehow plausible, so dysfunctional is every aspect of this society. While the drug-premise is a reminder to readers that the novel is fantasy, most of what Kashin describes is practically straight-out-of-the-headlines, from the intricate corporate corruption to mysterious deaths and hushed up crimes to even near-real-life examples such as the Olympics mess. In a wink to to the fact-fiction overlap, Kashin's narrator even alerts readers that he's changed some of the (fictional) names, because: "I don't want to have to go to court".
       Fardwor, Russia ! is an enjoyable satire, but it's almost too comfortably enjoyable, for what it says about this society, where even with the best of intentions things only go 'fardwor' (rather than forward), as in the misspelling of the word which gives the novel its title. Kashin's oblique narrative takes many nice swipes at much of what's wrong in Russia, but chooses not to throw or land the head-on blows. It makes for a fine little novel, but one that doesn't resonate quite so strongly.

- M.A.Orthofer, 23 January 2016

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Fardwor, Russia !: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of literature from Russia

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About the Author:

       Russian journalist and author Oleg Kashin (Олег Владимирович Кашин) was born in 1980.

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