The Year of the Comet

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  • Additional Information
    • Publication Type:
      eBook.
    • Abstract:
      A coming of age novel set in a crumbling Soviet Union by the acclaimed author of Oblivion—“the best of Russia's younger generation of writers”(The New York Review of Books). As the Soviet Union edges toward collapse, a young boy's idyllic childhood takes a sinister turn. Rumors of a serial killer haunt the neighborhood, families pack up and leave town without a word of warning, and the country begins to unravel. Policemen stand by as protesters overtake the streets, knowing that the once awe-inspiring symbols of power they wear on their helmets have become devoid of meaning. In The Year of the Comet, the acclaimed Russian poet and novelist Sergei Lebedev depicts a vast empire coming apart at the seams, transforming a very public moment into something delicate and personal. With stunning beauty and shattering insight, Lebedev writes about the tenderness of childhood, the legacy of Stalinism, and the growing consciousness of a boy in the world. “A clear poetic sensibility built to stand against the forces of erasure.” —The Wall Street Journal “This gorgeously written, unsettling novel... leaves us with a fresh understanding of that towering moment in recent history” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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Reviews

LJ Reviews 2016 December #1

Like his excellent Oblivion, Lebedev's absorbing new work opens with a steadily building account of growing up Soviet. Like those around him, the young narrator must carry the weight of the past—in particular, the consequences of a war that wiped out millions—even as he negotiates the stringent everyday. (Grandmother Tanya gives him a little statue that shows "how people really live—see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing.") He's torn between wanting to be a Soviet hero and learning his antecedents, even as he feels stifled by his family. Then comes 1986, the fateful year of Haley's Comet and Chernobyl, serious omens indeed for a boy always looking for them. Tension ratchets up further with "The Summer of Mister," as the narrator is befriended by an older boy he worships and decides to go after the pedophile killer he's convinced that only a child can see. In the end, he grows up, sadder, wiser, yet "born anew." VERDICT A seamlessly written child's-eye view that conveys an adult understanding of history's burdens.

Copyright 2016 Library Journal.

PW Reviews 2017 January #1

Lebedev (Oblivion) delivers a remarkable bildungsroman, set against the decline of the Soviet Union. The nameless narrator, a young boy yearning for anonymity and seclusion, reflects on his past and relatives in an attempt to find truth and a better understanding of himself. In doing so, he also tells the story of Soviet rule. When he discovers Grandmother Mara's old edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, he notices the book includes names and places he has never heard mentioned. These vanished entries spur the protagonist to acknowledge his homeland's fractured identity and to become more aware of the narratives that dictate his life. The appearance of Mister, a serial killer targeting young children, disrupts the rhythms of obeying power and pushes the narrator to pay attention to hints of the nation's inevitable collapse. Like Lebedev's previous novel, this book centers on one's attempt to recover the past from a powerful governing narrative. Antonia W. Bouis's deft translation captures Lebedev's striking prose. The novel is packed with symbolism: "Every object means something, says something, increases the danger that threatens the hero or mitigates it," the narrator muses. The plot remains widely relatable in depicting conflicts of consciousness—the speaker's attempts to reconcile the contradictions between ideology and individuality. This is a smart, convincing, and affecting novel. (Feb.)

Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly.