A Light Head (Легкая голова)


by Olga Slavnikova 





Brand manager Maxim T. Yermakov could quite justly be called the hero of his—our—time. Tamer of Moscow, the owner of a Toyota, who has almost scraped together enough for a flat within the Garden Ring... But one day some ominous-looking government officials turn up in Maxim’s office; they say they are from the State Department for Social Prognostics and they offer him the chance literally to become a hero. Which is to say, they offer him the chance to sacrifice himself in order save hundreds of thousands of people by committing ritual suicide. 


The social futurologists confirm that, since Yermakov is a very special sort of being — the so-called Object Alpha — he, by the very fact of his being, sets in motion certain kinds of catastrophic chains of cause and effect. These chains are fraught with terrible events — natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks; in order to prevent them, Maxim the brand-manager must willingly shoot himself. They give Maxim a gun and try to convince him to sacrifice himself: they follow him, try to talk him round, bribe him, harass him. But Maxim T. Yermakov is ready to expend every last drop of energy to insist on the simple honest right of the egoist to be alive, not dead, even if this will cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of other people.  


Olga Slavnikova is one of the most interesting and significant contemporary authors: her books are written in an extremely refined literary style and have an unfeminine mercilessness. This novel presents eternal problems, that both stand outside of time and speak of modern Russia, such as: ‘the person and the system’, ‘what is the price of the general good’, ‘shivering beast or individual with rights’.


Olga Slavnikova’s Light Head is one book without which it will be impossible to discuss Russian literature of the early 20th century.

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