Reviews on Portrait of an Unknown Girl by Aleksandr Skorobogatov

Portret van een onbekend meisje, Aleksandr Skorobogatov

‘Best Book of the Year 2015’ by Literatuurplein (The Netherlands)

‘Best Book of the Year 2015’ by TZUM (The Netherlands)

“Aleksandr Skorobogatov has written a novel about the tragic first love between two teenagers in the Soviet Union of the seventies. He describes the thrill of that first time in a blistering way.

Your first great love never leaves you. Russian writers, masters of melancholy, often know how to beautifully give voice to it. Aleksandr Skorobogatov is a contemporary chronicler of that great feeling in his fifth novel Portrait of an unknown girl.

Skorobogatov describes it in long meandering sentences, a stylistic hallmark of his earlier books as well. For everything in this beautiful novel revolves around being in love, around physical desire, around enjoying each other’s beauty, around the first time they have sex when the parents aren’t at home. And so richly is it described that Skorobogatov carries you away and enchants you with his beautiful language.”
Michel Krielaars, NRC Handelsblad

“Portrait of an Unknown Girl seems to continue seamlessly a Russian literary tradition in which great feelings are allowed to roam freely. Think of Turgenev’s First Love or a story by Ivan Bunin. Skorobogatov evokes such feelings in an exceptional fashion. His novel is witty where it needs to be, sensual where it wants to be, and subtle about the ‘precarious, sweet mixture of feelings that you want to rend asunder, but want to sustain even more.’

From the first page you’re aware that a refined stylist is wielding his pen. Quickly, you find yourself immersed knee-deep in this novel, which is full of melancholic, poised images and passionate sentences. Along the way, Skorobogatov skilfully conjures up the atmosphere of the crumbling Soviet empire in a far-off corner of Belarus ruled by alcoholism, boredom and petty fights. Skorobogatov’s richly varied prose adds a gentle glow to the whole. Portrait of an Unknown Girl is a real discovery.”
Dirk Leyman, De Morgen

“Aleksandr Skorobogatov is in every respect an heir to the Russian storytelling tradition. What writers like Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, and Gogol did over a century ago, he now does in a modern guise: giving shape to the Russian soul in lyrical language, in a story about love and revenge, opportunism and honor. The play with language takes primacy for Skorobogatov, and it’s a game he has mastered to perfection.”
Noord Hollands Dagblad

“An epic composed with such subtlety that it deserves to be called a work of genius.”
Guus Bauer, Literatuurplein

“Skorobogatov turns out to be our own Belgian-Russian master storyteller.”
Feeling Magazine, 4 out of 4 stars

“This novel, written in grand and restrained style, is exquisite.”
NBD Biblion

“Stunning novel.”
TZUM

“A book that captivated me from the beginning. I firmly believe that in Skorobogatov we encounter a great writer.”
Merwede Radio