Petroleum Venus

Alexander Snegirev, Author, Arch Tait, Translator
Alexander Snegirev. Glas (Consortium, dist.), $15 trade paper (206p) ISBN 978-5717200967
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-5-7172-0102-5
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In his first novel in translation, Snegirev, part of a new generation of post-Soviet Russian writers, tells the story of Fyodor, an architect who is forced to give up his career to better raise Vanya, his 15 year-old son with Down Syndrome. Fyodor seems trapped in this life until Vanya discovers a nude painting at the scene of a fatal car accident, setting off a chain of events and coincidences that promise a fresh start for both father and son. Snegirev seems to want to place himself within the larger Russian tradition, but the novel's slavish dependence on narrative coincidence craves the epiphanic meaning, the revelation of grand design behind ostensible chance, that defines so much classic Russian literature. The saving grace of the novel turns out to be Snegirev's honest and courageous treatment of Vanya and Fyodor's relationship. Rarely sentimental and never treacly, Snegirev is not afraid to depict the frustrations and irritations of raising a disabled child. The moments when Fyodor voices his own regrets and doubts about his son, his belief that Vanya holds him back from full potential, are what truly stand out at the novel's conclusion. (Feb.)
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