Welcome to post-imperial Russia in the post-nostalgia age


“Never in my life have I taken first place”, muses the narrator of Kamennyi most (The Stone Bridge), as he lines up his toy soldiers on a flea market stall in Moscow on a quiet autumn Sunday in 1998. Such is the opening of Alexander Terekhov’s 832-page novel, last year’s most talked-about work of fiction in Russia which took second prize in the Big Book awards. A graduate of the Journalism Faculty of the Moscow University (like many of the leading literary figures of his generation), Terekhov, who was born in 1966, began his career as an essayist and journalist. He published his first novel, Krysoboi, in 1995 (it came out in English as The Rat Killer in 2008). Kamennyi most is his second, and so far it exists only in Russian. Greeted with mixed and sometimes muddled reviews but always acknowledged as compelling, Kamennyi most takes its title from Moscow’s Bolshoy Kamennyi most, or Great Stone Bridge, the site of the murder mystery at the centre of the novel. The bridge’s single span connects the two banks of the Moscow River in the heart of the capital. On one bank stands the residential apartment complex for high Soviet officials – a brooding Constructivist giant of the 1930s, echoing the Lenin Mausoleum which was the setting for Yuri Trifonov’s novel The House on the Embankment (1976). The other bank is dominated by the Kremlin, a medieval fortress in Gothic style, the seat of the “Emperor”, as Terekhov’s narrator calls Joseph Stalin.

more from Gregory Freidin at the TLS here.