Tag: Mikhail Elizarov

The Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov

Posted February 17, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Magical Realism / 1 Comment

The Librarian by Mikhail ElizarovTitle: The Librarian (Goodreads)
Author: Mikhail Elizarov
Translator: Andrew Bromfield
Published: Pushkin Press, 2007
Pages: 410
Genres: Magical Realism
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The books by Gromov, obscure and forgotten propaganda author from the Soviet era, have gained a bit of cult following. However this is not your normal fandom and his book are unlike anything you will ever read. These books have the ability to magically transform anyone; make the weak strong, the cowardly brave. Small groups have formed to protect these supernatural book with their leader given the title The Librarian. War breaks out between these libraries in desperate attempts to seize any copies of Gromov’s books they may have. The Librarian tells the story of Alexei, a loser who unexpectedly stumbles across one of Gromov’s books that changes his life forever.

This dystopian world created by Mikhail Elizarov is an obvious allegory for the Soviet Union, however it is something to be expected in post-Soviet literature. However Elizarov explores some interesting themes as well, in particular an idea of ‘blind faith’ in politics. The Librarian looks at the way people will thoughtlessly adopt a political system in which they are forced to inhabit. The author has a lot to say on the Soviet system and, like other Russian authors (in Soviet and post-Soviet literature), he adopts a satirical method to explore these ideas.

Alternatively, you could look at The Librarian from the perspective of the power of books. The entire novel is about people reading these books and gaining power, knowledge, and so on. This is the true power of books; as readers, we educate ourselves and learn empathy, and also get different political, historical or cultural points of view. While we might not gain the same amount of power as the people in this novel, we do gain power.

I found this book extremely interesting and I was engrossed the entire way through it. It is violent and could be a little too hard for some to handle but there is something worth exploring here. The Librarian won the Russian Booker Prize in 2008; this is very similar to the Man Booker Prize but for Russian novels. I had not heard too much about the Russian Booker Prize previously but I am now very interested. As a fan of Russian lit, I will keep an eye out for books translated into English so I can continue to explore more post-Soviet literature.