Eksmo Publishers, Moscow
Actes Sud, France
The boss of a computer company gives his young employee Mikhail a new job. Mikhail is supposed to see to the upbringing of the boss’s son Sergej, who is behaving very strangely for a sixteen-year-old. He does not drink. He does not chase girls. He sits in front of the computer all day, or disappears somewhere. Does everybody in this novel lie all the time? In reality, Mikhail’s boss wants him to spy on Sergej. Sergej hides the fact from his father that he is in love with Marina, for whom he is pretending to be a poor boy from the provinces. Marina, however, knows very well whose son he is. Her own father, of course, has had his eye on a good match for her for a long time. Mikhail falls in love with Marina, something that Sergej, obviously, cannot learn about. These are self-serving lies to keep up appearances, habitual lies, magnanimous lies. And more often than not, one does not know where one lie ends and the other begins, just like in real life. The action of the story moves to Italy, and what begins as a comedy of errors (Sergej tells his father that Marina and Mikhail are a couple) seems ready to slide into tragedy … The decidedly cinematic ending—a hostage taking, a shootout, exploding cars—says that nothing should be taken seriously, but it is deadly serious.
By telling the story from two points of view (Mikhail’s and Sergej’s), expanded upon with excerpts from the protagonists’ letters and diaries, Gelasimov has created a turbulent parody that is simultaneously a touching picaresque novel.