cover image The Matiushin Case

The Matiushin Case

Oleg Pavlov, trans. from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield. & Other Stories (, $15.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-908276-36-0

Russian Booker Prize winner Pavlov (Captain of the Steppe) plunges readers into the grim realities of Soviet military life in the early 1980s. Vasilii Grigorievich Matiushin is the sensitive, half-deaf son of an abusive army officer who is called to fight in the Soviet army shortly after the death of his brother in "a foreign war." Despised by his father for his weakness, Matiushin joins other alcohol-soaked recruits to serve in various Soviet backwaters, with a first assignment in Tashkent and then a disastrous interlude in Kazakhstan. Soldiers like Matiushin are beaten constantly and beat each other just as often, subjected to casual cruelty in a military structure whose golden rule is to "live so that no one notices you're alive." At each stage in this hell, Matiushin discovers men drowning their fears in vodka and hash and indulging in constant violence towards friends and rivals alike. Whether he is recovering from a forced march in a military hospital or guarding inmates at a prison, Matiushin recognizes himself in a different kind of prison, one from which he wants desperately to escape. Bromfield, well-known for his translations of contemporary Russian literature, ably renders Pavlov's prose with extremes of lyricism and banality. While short on plot and populated with somewhat one-dimensional characters, Pavlov pulls off a harrowing tale about institutional cruelty and the perversions of character that it produces. (July)