Victor Martinovich is a funny writer. Funny not in a Douglas Adams sort of way. More like George Orwell or Aldous Huxley. Not “ha ha,” more like “hm.”
This novel is a love tragedy. But, since it takes place in totalitarian Belarus (Martinovich’s home is not mentioned, but that’s where we are), it’s really a bizarre love triangle, between the protagonist Anatoly, a writer, Elisaveta, a woman whom Anatoly meets in a café, and the State, which, given its jealous totalitarian-ness, must monitor even the most mundane and intimate moments of the couple’s lives.
The story’s narrative alternates with intelligence reports or transcripts that are pitch perfect in their dry reportage, and on the whole the novel is as hilarious a send up of modern Belorussian tyranny as one can expect. Why is probably why the book was banned upon its release and Martinovich is now living in exile.
[As reviewed in Russian Life magazine.]