Рецензія на книжку:
Нікітін Олексій. Istemi
Anne Marie Jackson)
Years ago in the days before online gaming groups, we played a SimSoc or simulated society game in a political science class. It was complex enough to be played over several full days, as the nations grouped and regrouped, fought over money and resources, and tried to control entire ideological blocs. Harmless enough in Canada, but imagine being a university student in Ukraine in 1984 and devising such a game.
That's just what six friends did in Alexei Nikitin's novel Istemi. The six looked on their game as a lark, a diversion from studying. They wrote out a manifesto starting
Recent history has shown that there exists within Slovenorussia a revolutionary movement determined to detach from the Holy Roman Empire a number of its territories.
Students of science and utterly naive politically, it did not occur to them that the authorities, specifically the KGB, might think differently about their new pastime, once it was inevitably discovered. The students were arrested and held for questioning.
The novel actually opens twenty years later in 2004. Ukraine is now independent. Davidov, the narrator, is working for a branch of an American soft drink company in Kiev, as he puts it
helping a bunch of guys they've never even met to sell as many plastic bottles of sickly-sweet brown swill as possible -- water with a bit of concentrate and masses of preservatives , flavourings and dyes... The pay mind you is not to be sneezed at.
One day, the long lost manifesto and ultimatum to Slovenorussia appear in his email, addressed to his gaming code name, Istemi, the last ruler in the game and copied to the other students.
Where did the long lost document come from and who sent it? Davidov sets out to search for the answers. His story alternates between the events of 1984 and his current 2004 search, gradually filling in the details of the students' lives in the intervening years. Paranoia is rampant on all sides in 1984. In 2004, Davidov/Istemi's fear erupts once more, and the all too familiar paranoia and mistrust return.
Through him, the reader discovers not only Soviet era Kiev, but also the Kiev of today. Capitalism is the new religion, but it has brought its own problems. The atmosphere is still grim. People are so anxious, they feel the need to drive around in the middle of the night just to vent all alone:
At this hour the roads were peaceful, travelled only by taxi drivers and other drivers like myself, petrol heads crazed with loneliness and the senselessness of existence. While waiting for the light to change I would study their greyish faces, their brows drawn in torment. Some moved their lips, talking to themselves, filling the emptiness with the sound of their own voices -- they had nothing else to fill it with. Frequently I saw women at the wheel. Office managers. Plasticine business women absorbed in business, not their own but someone else's -- and absorbed far more deeply than it warranted. Some had spent the day in negotiations and meetings. The bird language of negotiations was long the only language they could use or understand without an interpreter. This nocturnal journey was a crack in the unified unshakeable picture of their world... Even at night they concentrated on the road as if it would lead them to a target; they were always aiming for targets. They gripped the steering wheel tight. Nothing distracted that, and they didn't look around.
As Istemi tracks down the people from his 1984 world, he discovers the strange turns life has taken for them too. Nikitin skilfully blends humour and satire into this tale of unintended consequences. Part mystery, part political statement, part morality tale, always entertaining, it is a great take on a society in full throttle transition.