Publishers Weekly about Russian Gothic by Aleksandr Skorobogatov

Starred pre-release review of Russian Gothic by Aleksandr Skorobogatov in Publishers Weekly

Readers won’t be able to turn away.

First published in 1991, the harrowing English-language debut from Skorobogatov centers on a Soviet Afghan war veteran driven to commit violence by a monstrous apparition. Nikolai, who is unemployed and living off his military pension with his actor wife, Vera, begins to hallucinate a mysterious sexual rival who takes up residence in their home. At first Nikolai only hears whispers between Vera and an unidentified man, but his paranoia soon manifests as the phantasmagorical Sergeant Bertrand, who flirts with Vera and ceaselessly accosts Nikolai with stories of her infidelity. As his jealousy intensifies, Nikolai regularly beats Vera and attacks other men he believes are after her, including an audience member at the theater where she performs, her costar, and a visiting friend. Through it all, Vera remains devoted to Nikolai. He’s eventually committed to a psychiatric hospital, but his delusions continue, and he escapes to attack Vera one final time. Skorobogatov’s atmospheric horror story, smoothly translated by Chavasse, makes clever use of gothic conventions to build an allegory of the embittered psyche of a fallen empire, and to sketch a chilling portrait of PTSD. Readers won’t be able to turn away. Agent: Markus Hoffmann, Regal Hoffmann & Assoc. (June)

Aleksandr Skorobogatov, trans. from the Russian by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse. Rare Bird, $25 (128p) ISBN 978-1-64428-402-5

Reviewed on: 04/15/2024
Genre: Fiction