The Light and the Dark (Paperback)
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The only author to win all three major Russian literary prizes (including the Russian Booker Prize), Mikhail Shishkin is one of the most acclaimed contemporary Russian literary figures. The Guardian said of Shishkin's writing: "richly textured and innovative. . . arguably Russia's greatest living novelist."
The Wall Street Journal raved that "Shishkin has created a bewitching potion of reality and fantasy, of history and fable, and of lonely need and joyful consolation. An exquisite novel... His sovereignty is over the invisible and the timeless. Mr. Shishkin traces this sad story with great beauty and finesse."
In The Light and the Dark Shishkin has created an evocative love story of two young lovers, Vladimir, a solider flighting the Boxer Rebellion, and Alexandra. Known fondly to each other as Vovka and Sashka, the two young lovers sustain their love by writing passionate letters to each other.
But as their correspondence continues, it becomes clear that the couple's separation is chronological as well as geographical--that their extraordinary romance is actually created out of, as well as kept alive by, their yearning epistolary exchange, which defies not only space but time. With this contrapuntal literary testament to the delirious, transcendent power of love, Mikhail Shishkin--the most celebrated Russian author of his generation--has created a masterpiece of modern fiction.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
AUTHOR Mikhail Shishkin was born in Moscow in 1961. Today, he is one of the most acclaimed Russian writers and the only author to have won all three major Russian literary prizes. Shishkin shares his time between Moscow, Berlin, and Switzerland. TRANSLATORAndrew Bromfield has translated into English many notable Russian authors, including Boris Akunin, Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Bulgakov, and many more. He is a founding editor of Glas, a Russian literary journal. From the Hardcover edition.
PRAISE FOR THE LIGHT AND THE DARK
"Often sings with powerfully estranged, original observations . . . minutiae and grand philosophy collide on every page." —Boris Fishman, The New York Times Book Review
"With an epistolary novel, Mikhail Shishkin demonstrates that he is heir to Tolstoy, Pasternak and Grossman. Mr. Shishkin has created a bewitching potion of reality and fantasy, of history and fable, and of lonely need and joyful consolation. An exquisite novel . . . His sovereignty is over the invisible and the timeless. Mr. Shishkin traces this sad story with great beauty and finesse." —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“Shishkin writes with an admirable clarity and economy that not only brings each character’s story to vivid life, but creates a melancholy tone. The book is full of echoes and allusions, for instance to Gogol and Shakespeare, not as if the author is playing literary games to amuse himself but completely naturally, as if these characters live with their culture the way real people actually do . . . The Light and the Dark is an immersive reading experience that lingers in the mind long after closing the book. If at first it seems loosely plotted and full of diversions, with a direct sentimentality usually avoided in literary novels, in the end it has an authenticity born out of a voice that is both natural and lyrical." —Michel Basilières, The Toronto Star
“Shishkin is arguably Russia's greatest living novelist . . . his writing is richly textured and innovative and his themes are universal: love and death, pain and happiness, war and peace. . . . Shishkin's writing is both philosophically ambitious and sensually specific, evoking the rain on a dacha roof, the smell of blossoming lime trees, or the stink of human corpses.” —Phoebe Taplin, The Guardian
“Whatever the secret of the time scheme, and however magic-realist or metaphysical it might be, it contributes to the book’s powerful treatment of love and the vividness of being alive, underscored by the reality of ever-present morality—Shishkin is a writer with a compelling sense of the skull beneath the skin.” —Phil Baker, The Sunday Times
"There is a lyrical, poetic quality to much of Shishkin's writing . . . This is certainly the most complicated, protean book I've ever reviewed and one jammed with cultural allusions and ideas." —Tibor Fischer, Standpoint Magazine
“Shishkin’s prodigious erudition, lapidary phrasing and penchant for generic play are conspicuous components of his art … These charactersitics do indeed ally him with Nabokov, as he does have faith in the written word … And yet, unlike Nabokov, Joyce and many of their postmodern acolytes, Shishkin is unabashedly and unironically sentimental.” —Boris Dralyuk, Times Literary Supplement
"Mikhail Shishkin is the Ian McEwan of Russia. A prize-winning writer who enjoys stunning commercial and critical success, he’s also a literary celebrity in a country that still knows how to celebrate its author-heroes. His latest novel, The Light and the Dark, in its brilliant translation, is striking proof that great Russian literature didn’t die with Dostoevsky. The prose is lapidary, the evocation of history and the present razor-sharp. A wonderful book: it is filled with wonder." —Monocle Magazine
“Mikhail Shishkin is a contemporary Russian novelist whose style is remarkably solid and consistent across his oeuvre. His works could have been written any time between today and the late 19th century—and this is especially true when there are no obvious historical markers. In this epistolary novel, the love letters exchanged by Volodya and Sasha have to cross not only a great space, but also many years . . . As the heroine says in a letter, all books are in fact not about love, but about death; or rather, "about eternity". This is one of the many clues to the book's meaning. It really does not matter if the lovers have ever met in person. The only witness who counts is the author – or, more precisely, his prose.”—Anna Aslanyan, The Independent
"Wondrous . . . Shishkin does something here beyond knitting a rich story of love, death, joy and pain in life, the nature of language and writing. He subtly and wickedly plays with our perceptions of time and narrative. Lyrical and realistic, fantastic and quotidian, rendered in vivid prose, The Light and the Dark speaks to why Mikhail Shishkin has been compared to the giants of 19th-century Russian letters."-John Dodson, Tucson Weekly
“Striking . . . [Vladimir and Alexandra’s] tales cohere into a portrait of Russians growing up too soon, enlisted in causes not their own, exemplified by Sashenka’s belief in a second, disobedient self who lives out the dreams she can’t.”—Publishers Weekly
"Wondrous . . . Shishkin does something here beyond knitting a rich story of love, death, joy and pain in life, the nature of language and writing. He subtly and wickedly plays with our perceptions of time and narrative. Lyrical and realistic, fantastic and quotidian, rendered in vivid prose, The Light and the Dark speaks to why Mikhail Shishkin has been compared to the giants of 19th-century Russian letters."—John Dodson, Tucson Weekly
"The physical world is conjured in plainly written sentences and homely, brilliant images … All the senses are celebrated, but especially sight and smell . . . In a few clean sentences, an entire town is created in the reader’s mind . . . Each sentence, taken individually, is a model of economy, clarity and directness, and Andrew Bromfield’s translation must be praised for its lucidity." —Anita Mason, Warwick Review
"The detail is thick, romantic with both a small and large r, but this feels valid for what lovers, nineteenth century, early twentieth perhaps, would write . . . Beautiful and devastating in equal measure, The Light and the Dark is ideal for reading on those days it seems it shall be winter forever, when we need reminding that whatever happens in our lives—love, death, every countless mundane ache—the faint sketch of every blossom remains on the barest tree." —PankMagazine.com
"Poetic, complex prose and musings on love and death, Shishkin has been likened to Pushkin."