The New Sweet Style by Vassily Aksyonov (Soviet Union): 1999; translated by Christopher Morris, 1999.
I am not a trained literary critic or book reviewer, however, I do read quite a bit. In order to keep this blog more 'live' I am going to offer my amateur thoughts concerning the books I read. Most of them are books in English translation, but there is a scattering of books written in English, especially short stories as that is my focus for this year. And so, lets start with The New Sweet Style.
I have read other books by Askyonov, specifically, The Winter's Journey, Generations of Winter, The Island of Crimea, and The Burn. all of which are worthy of reading time. So is this current book, which is almost two decades old. His coverage of the happenings in Russia and in the United States at the time resonate in today's political and social world. Things haven't actually changed that much. The book is a fairly difficult read but enjoyable all the same. The main character, Alexander Korbach, is a likeable man with a plentitude of talents, which help him negotiate the difficulties he has in Russia and during his emigration and settlement in America. The author moves around in time and point of view frequently, and also introduces several metafictional techniques throughout the novel. While some scenes and outcomes are predictable or drawn out, the overall narrative is fast-paced, fun, and stimulating.
The final section of the book (Part XII), with four short chapters, I found to be the weakest and least enjoyable of the novel. Characters go through some strange transformations and a general lunacy takes over until the conclusion, where all the characters from the book reunite. Still, in spite of the less than satisfying ending, this is a strong, challenging, and pleasant read.