Thursday, December 18, 2008

Olga Grushin - The Dream Life of Sukhanov

I was going to write a great review for this book. It would start something like this:

“1985 was the year the Russian painter Marc Chagall died. It is also the year we meet Anatoly Pavlovich Sukhanov, the year when his waking life as the successful editor of the Soviet publication Art of the World, married to the daughter of the most revered national painter and father of two, starts slowly to mesh with a series of increasingly vivid dream-memories, triggered by long-lost faces, newly discovered relatives, the colors and streets of Moscow.

In these waking dreams Sukhanov comes to remember a time when he first (despite himself) loved art –a time when Botticelli and Dalí were not examples of decadent capitalism but magicians that made him dream as a child and strive to open new doors as a young artist; when his own father was in real life striving to discover the science that would make some of the last paintings of Chagall come true in the shape of men with wings and when the iconic paintings of Andrei Rublev stood for proud spirituality instead of feeble-minded belief.

As the daydreams become more intense and prolonged Sukhanov’s waking life starts to crumble – with Perestroika round the corner, old party dinosaur’s such as himself were no longer wanted around - and the irony that he has become expendable precisely because he has forced himself to embody the Soviet official view on art does not escape him. Midlife crisis can be painful enough without the aid of a regime disintegrating around you.”

But never mind all that. What I really want to say is that “The Dream Life of Sukhanov” is my favorite book of the year. I confidently state it today, the 17th of December. Beautiful language, a good story, food for thought and further reading, it has it all. Wonderful.

No comments: