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Island of Crimea by Vasily Aksyonov
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Island of Crimea (1981)

by Vasily Aksyonov

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My second Aksyonov, having read the excellent The Burn a couple of years ago. I wasn't quite so excited about The Island of Crimea, but it was still a very good read.

The book plays with the idea that the Crimea (here and island, not a peninsula) resisted the Bolsheviks in 1917, and has become an outpost of democracy for Russian people. There is an analogy to Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. The story follows the Crimean political elite, who identify themselves as Russians and are pushing for stronger ties, even reunification, with the USSR. Aksyonov uses this device to examine the interactions between the political forces at work in the USSR (and on his semi-fictional island), such as socialism, nationalism and capitalism. His focus is on Luchnikov, a powerful media magnate, pushing for stronger bonds with Moscow, as he confronts intrigues both at home, and in Moscow.

The Island of Crimea is awash with Aksyonov's trademark satirical bite. The story borders on the absurd in many places, but still produces a fairly stern examination of the forces for political and social change in the USSR. There were perhaps an overabundance of pointless sex, and a few too many narrative threads for a relatively short book, but its main thrusts still hit home. Indeed the relative silliness of some of the book makes the emotional lows even more painful, as Aksyonov (mostly) successfully treads a fine line between farce and satire. It was a fairly unique take on 1970s Soviet socialism, and worth a read for that alone. Aksyonov is a writer who I have planned to read again for a long while, and The Island of Crimea certainly didn't disappoint.
1 vote GlebtheDancer | Jun 27, 2009 |
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