Not Russian

Europa. Oct. 2022. 160p. tr. from Russian by Brian James Baer & Ellen Vayner. ISBN 9781609458119. pap. $17. F
A freelance journalist who no longer collaborates with Russian state or private media, Shevelev offers a blistering critique of his country’s policies and people in his first novel to be translated into English. In 2015, a shriek from his wife alerts journalist Pavel Vladimirovich to something momentous on the news: terrorists have taken hostages at a church near Moscow, and their leader is Vadim Petrovich, whom Pavel had rescued while reporting on the fighting in Chechnya. Pavel soon learns that Vadim has requested him as negotiator, and when he arrives at the church, Vadim reveals his disgust with Russia’s actions in both Chechnya and 2014 Ukraine and how badly Pavel misunderstood the facts of the rescue mission he vaingloriously rushed to cover. Vadim’s demands are tough—Putin must apologize on live TV, or the hostages will be executed—and as Pavel struggles to find a solution, he condemns the Russian government for its mendacity and the Russian people for their passive acceptance in a piece he knows probably can’t be published. When the end comes, it’s both unexpected and the only thing that could have happened.
VERDICT An incisive and suspenseful examination of potent issues; names and events may challenge, but the glossary helps.
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