My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Обращение в слух, which can be translated as Turning into a Listening Ear, is an important work marking the return of the so-called ‘novel of ideas’. The book won the biggest Russian literary prize this year – The Big Book.
As a fiction story and plot-wise it’s not very interesting, as a document of human suffering it’s not very original, but it has an important dialogue in it about what it is to be Russian, and it turns out that outside the world of culture, literature, being Russian isn’t very different from being someone of another nation. National identity and mentality are linked to culture and language, this is what defines them.
The most interesting thing about Russian mentality we find in the middle of the book, in the terrific discussions on Dostoevsky. This is a must read for any Dostoevsky’s fan.
The main character Fyodor (a hint on Dostoevsky again), who is Russian by ethnicity, has always lived outside Russia, yet his deep interest in spirituality and Russian literature and identity makes him a lot more Russian than his intellectual yet cynical and materialist opponent – the Belyavsky couple.
I hope this great book is translated into many languages, since it feels like a bridge connecting modern Russian thinking with the country’s literary tradition.
P.S. For some reason Fyodor reminded me of Alyosha Karamazov, the Belyavsky(s) – Mephistopheles.