cover image Back to Moscow

Back to Moscow

Guillermo Erades. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-0-86547-837-4

Russia’s capital is the most dynamic character in Erades’s boozy bildungsroman. Fresh from a college heartbreak in Amsterdam, the 20-something Martin moves to Moscow in the late 1990s to complete a doctorate at the prestigious Moscow State University. Falling in with an international cohort of bros about town—“the brothers”—and the local women—“dyevs”—they pick up at popular nightclubs and bars, Martin decides that his nightly conquests can double as his doctoral research, as “a complete picture of Russian woman [to] compare with the behavior of heroines in Russian literature.” He begins with Lena, a spiritual, suffering young woman who resents his unwillingness to commit, and he continues on to the business-minded Yulya, schoolgirl Polina, and the traditional, provincial Tatyana, a recent Siberian transplant who wants nothing more than a quiet family life and offers Martin a chance to retire from the exhausting chase for more sex and better venues. Interspersed with these encounters are Martin’s reflections on Russian classics, from Chekhov’s Three Sisters to Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. The tragic resolution feels rushed, but readers will appreciate the texture and detail Erades gives to Moscow. (May)