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Several odd characters meet up in a grotty old London gym only to discover that their mutual pasts are intricately linked to Artek, an international Young Pioneer camp in Crimea, where an army of instructors and Party propagandists used to brainwash children into believing in a Communist Paradise on earth. Sim Golos, an eccentric Russian refugee in London, spent years of his abused Soviet childhood in Artek. Meanwhile, a dubious British businessman Archibald Wren, appointed as Sim’s guardian, manipulates the lives and minds of Sim and his London friends. Making use of intimidation and blackmail, he is able to convince them all that they are potential victims of a sinister scientific experiment in which sound is being transformed into flesh. Zinik’s new comic novel incorporates a surreal Soviet family saga of abuse and corruption into the parallel world of modern London. It is a hot mixture of a Gothic horror story and an intellectual burlesque, of a political history and personal testimony.
(...) His sleeping place was squeezed somewhere between a windowsill and a collapsible dining table, perpendicular to his grandparents’ sofa in the open alcove, next to the screen (with cheap silk prints of Orpheus and his lyre across it) that hid the parental bed. The distances between these collapsible objects were so short that the geometry of the dwelling space cancelled itself out, collapsed on its own echo: not only furniture – sounds were folded and unfolded, too. Was it a floor board or a bed spring creaking? Was it the rustle of autumn leaves or his mother’s nightgown? Was it a snow hill collapsing in the thaw outside or someone turning over in bed with a sigh? And all that crying, bickering, hissing and shrieking behind the walls! Everything was so tightly pressed together that there was no longer a clear distinction between the material and the imaginary. Sim followed closely every sound in this night orgy with his good pair of fleshy ears, recording echoes of objects invisible in the darkness. ‘I echo therefore I exist.’ Then the shadows behind the screen would come alive, too. From behind the screen he could hear two whispering voices begin to negotiate something secret, conspiring against a common enemy. Who? Was this enemy Sim? He would bury himself under the blanket wishing to become invisible. The shadows on the screen looked like alien monsters, flailing about, cavorting. And then he would hear their voices change from a human whimper to a wild animal growl. Sim was afraid to move, as if expecting this double-headed creature to jump and devour him any moment now.
‘We’re talking about a scientific enigma, a monster created out of an orgasmic sound in this boy’s mind... It has been transmogrified into disparate personalities and yet is easily recognisable. The one-eared monster. The beast from Artek.’ (...)
Zinovy Zinik is a Moscow-born bilingual author who has lived in London since 1976. Among his fourteen books of prose, translated into a number of European languages, his novel The Mushroom Picker was made into a film by BBC television (1993). His recent books include History Thieves (Seagull Books, 2011), a collection of essays Emigration as a Literary Device (NLO, 2011) and a collection of his prose in Russian about 1970s Moscow Third Jerusalem (NLO, 2013). He is a frequent contributor to the pages of The Times Literary Supplement and other periodicals, as well as to BBC radio. Zinik is also the UK Editor of Artenol.
Author: Zinovy Zinik
Illustrator: Lukáš Malina
Size: 16 x 24 x 2,5 cm, Weight: 600 g
Page Extent: 248
Date: 1. 6. 2016
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