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Ambrosia's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
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At the King's Pleasure
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Posted by on December 18, 2012

What needs might the dead have? Our loved ones stay with us after they’ve gone. Love, death and memory breathe in unison in the novel by Igor Sakhnovsky.

The Vital Needs of the Dead is a tender coming-of-age story set in the provinces of the Soviet Union in the second half of the 20th century. At the center of this story, praised by Russian critics for its blend of realism and lyrical sensibility, lies the relationship of young Gosha Sidelnikov with his alluring and mysterious grandmother Rosa, who becomes his caregiver when he is virtually abandoned by his busy and distant parents. This relationship colors Sidelnikov’s subsequent forays into first love and sexual awakening. Even after her death, memories of Rosa accompany him into his adventures as a provincial student. Then, one miserably cold winter night, her voice commands him to immediately depart for a place he’s never been before, precipitating a mysterious chain of events.

My first thought with Vital Needs of the dead when I started reading it was that not everyone is going to understand this book. As I continued reading I continued to feel that way. For those born in a privileged western world that have not had to deal with the experiences of something like Soviet run Russia they cannot always identify with what is going on.

Now I am one of those who was born in the Western world but I have done a lot of reading of this era and like to think I can connect with what is being told. Igor Sakhnovsky writes a very detailed story that is full of images that seemed to speak of me. Gosha is a character that I could really connect with and so I was interested in his story and what was happening to him throughout.

Some of the translation could be a little bit rough but for me that did not really take away from the book. A lot of times I think you have to read a book in its mother tongue to get all of the subtle nuances of what is being told. I would recommend this book to someone who is willing to take the time to understand what the story is telling you.

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