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The New Moscow Philosophy

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  the new moscow philosophy

by Vyacheslav Pyetsukh

translated from the Russian by Krystyna Anna Steiger


A communal apartment in late Soviet-era Moscow. An elderly tenant — the daughter of the apartment's original owner — has disappeared after seeing a ghost. Over the course of a weekend the other occupants meet in the kitchen to argue over who is more deserving of the room she has apparently vacated. If the old woman was murdered, each tenant is a suspect since each would have a motive: the "augmentation of living space." As two of the tenants engage in an extended debate over the nature of evil, they take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and nail the culprit, and it becomes clear that the entire tableau is a reprise of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.

Displaying a sharp wit and a Gogolian sense of the absurd, Pyetsukh visits anew the age-old debate over the relationship between life and art, arguing that in Russia life imitating literature is as true as literature reflecting life, and the novel strikes a perfect balance between the presentation of philosophical arguments and their discussion in humorous dialogue.

A vital work of contemporary Russian prose, The New Moscow Philosophy was immediately translated into many European languages upon its publication in 1989. This is its first English translation.

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What others say:

The New Moscow Philosophy is a snarl, delightfully tangled, of philosophy, humor, and humanity; it’s not unlike the lives we live.

— David Cozy, Review of Contemporary Fiction

This is a terrific book, extremely interesting and also relevant to anyone trying to understand the adjustment Russians have had to make in a short period of democracy.

ANZ LitLovers

Pyetsukh makes eye-watering poverty bearable. His characters and the scenes he sets are fundamentally enjoyable despite the circumstances, absurdity is common, and carefully developed throughout is an abundance of pathos and a care in showing lightness even during the darkest times.
It also helps that this is a murder mystery, in the campest, most delicious way.

— Charles J Haynes, Bookmunch

With an excellent translation by Krystyna Anna Steiger, this story presents a Russia grappling with the reawakening mysticism of its past traditions and a pragmatic realism instilled through over sixty years of Soviet domination. Fortunately, Pyetsukh has weaved this into a humorous, insightful, easy-to-follow novel, which overall offers an immensely enjoyable and educating read.

— Richard Jackson, KGB Bar Lit Magazine

[T]his is a gentle parody of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, but even if the reader is unfamiliar with that book, The New Moscow Philosophy is easy reading and full of insights into literature—particularly the Russian reverence for it. The book offers a mystery story and a debate, often humorous, over good and evil.

NewPages

Carrying on an illustrious tradition found in Bulgakov's sinister Apartment Number 50 on Sadovaya as well as Communal Apartment Number 3, known as the "the Rookery," where Ilf and Petrov's Ostap Bender briefly takes up residence (until it burns down), Apartment Number 12 becomes a world in itself, a microcosm of Russia and human life.

literalab

The New Moscow Philosophy is a rare parody that is as pleasure-filled as its inspirations (or should I say targets) and is well worth a read in its own right. As one turns the pages, snickers and giggles soon give way to guffaws.

— Only a Blockhead

The narrative, though entertaining, occasionally feels secondary, a structure to facilitate Pyetsukh's philosophical discourse, but the line of argument he pursues is sufficiently perceptive and fascinating to drive the novel forward. A brilliant book, possibly the best I have read so far in 2011.

Time's Flow Stemmed

Now this book is a must for any Russian lit fan ... I must say the translator, Krystyna Anna Steiger, has managed to keep together what is a complex and mutlilayered book still hugely readable in English.

Winstonsdad's

Despite the seriousness of Pyetsukh's idea, The New Moscow Philosophy is refreshingly comical. The book's mock-historical narrative tone is self-aware enough to both embrace and poke fun at its grand aspirations.

Necessary Fiction

The whole story is presented as a 'real life' alternative working of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, with many asides on the nature of art, the similarities and differences between literature and reality, and the importance of literature in the lives of average Russians. In between there's an intriguing whodunnit as the two tenants investigate ghostly sightings, death threats cut from a children's book and disappearing photographs.

Our Book Reviews Online

There is a huge amount to like about The New Moscow Philosophy. It is a fine example of all that is good in the best of Russian literature. It is, on the surface, a nice simple mystery story. Yet not far beneath lurks the subversive, questioning, dissatisfied social commentary that characterizes much of Russia's literary heritage.

— Phil Constable, New York Journal of Books

Pyetsukh's ideas about literature and life are profound, and this entertaining novel enacts, rather than simply imparts them.

— Stephan Delbos, The Prague Post

Steeped in literature, The New Moscow Philosophy seems in all ways typically Russian (still with a strong Soviet slant), from its possible-murder mystery — light-hearted but melancholy — to the heavy layers of inescapable past that all the characters must deal with. It is a household tale yet includes extensive philosophical exposition, a mix of the everyday and the eternal with, in both cases, a distinctly Russian flair.

The Complete Review

Literary critics have already defined Pyetsukh's prose as "alternative literature" or "ironical avant-garde."

— Irina Lebleu, The Noosphere

   

ISBN 978 80 86264 36 3
186 pp.
14 x 20 cm
softcover with flaps
Smyth sewn
fiction : novel
rights • world English

cover by Dan Mayer

release dates
UK: June 2011
US: Oct. 2014


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