By: Gaito Gazdanov, Bryan Karetnyk (Translation)
Format/Source: eARC courtesy of the publishers via NetGalley
While summering on the French Riviera, the young Seryozha secretly becomes the lover of the much older Liza – who is also his father’s mistress. As autumn approaches, they reluctantly part: Liza to return to Paris, Seryozha to take up his studies at university in London. When he finds out about their affair, Seryozha’s father attempts to convince Liza to leave his son, for the sake of the boy’s own happiness. She finally gives in – but a sudden, fatal catastrophe changes everything…
It’s been a while since I’ve read some Russian literature, so this book came at a good time (plus the added bonus that I never heard of this author before, so that was cool). This book will be available on 25 April 2016.
It’s kind of hard for me to put my thoughts into words about this book in part because the book blurb describing what this book is about is a bit misleading; the events mentioned in the blurb doesn’t really come into play until the last third of the novel, and rather the first two-thirds of the novel dealt with the lives of these various characters leading up to this moment of confrontation amongst the principal characters–Seryozha, his father, Liza, Seryozha’s mother. Part of me was thinking as I was reading how this novella should’ve been a bit more condensed, could’ve stuck to the princpal characters, etc. but on the other hand I understand why the author chose to delve into the lives of Sergey, Liza, Olga, etc., get into their headspace and understand where they are coming from (for the most part; Sergey still comes across as a little detached and off in his own world, whatever he says). I certainly could’ve done without Lisa’s side story, however interesting she was, if only because it felt like the point of her story was just to wrap everything up at the end and see how paths and fates cross in different ways.
But once the story hits the moment highlighted in the book blurb, it does speed up to the climax and the catastrophe that it speaks of in true Russian fashion. I admit I didn’t expect the twist. Also in true Russian fashion is how the author analyses each of his characters, has them reflecting on their life and what they want; this was especially the case for the women in this story, who want to only be in control of their life and are seen as vain or capricious because of their lot in life, their sad marriages, whatever means they have available to them.
The Flight overall was an interesting novella that examines life and relationships through this interweb of characters. The pacing was plodding, especially at the first two-thirds of the novel, but nonetheless I remained glued to the page to see how all of the characters and relationships connected to each other and in what way leading to the climax and tragedy of the novel. Readers of novellas, literary fiction, and Russian literature will want to check this book out.