USSR, a novel, translated from the Russian by Andrea Gregovich, foreword by Mikhail Iossel, Fiction Advocate, 2014
Paperback / 230 pages / 8.5 x 5.5" / ISBN 9780989961516
Vladimir Kozlov's USSR chronicles the domestic life of a Soviet "everyboy" named Igor Razov during the early years of perestroika in the eighties, not long before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet war in Afghanistan, the election of Gorbachev, the announcement of America's Strategic Defense Initiative (aka "Star Wars"), and the Chernobyl disaster all take place during the course of this novel, but these events hold limited interest for Igor. Politics are mostly just fodder for the mandatory school propaganda sessions he's forced to sit through, and even Chernobyl, which blows its radioactive cloud directly over Igor's city Mogilev in the Belorussian Republic, is kept hushed enough in news reports that Igor soon stops thinking about it and returns his attention to his more immediate concerns: model cars, boxing club, fist fights, kissing girls, sneaking cigarettes, tricking out his bike, and learning to be "one of the brothers." Igor is also more compelled by the social issues that affect his daily life -- food shortages, vodka lines, "the war on alcoholism," the remnants of failed central planning experiments and propaganda efforts, the overall deterioration of family life in the crumbling Soviet empire - as well as exciting new imports and influences trickling in from the west like rock-and-roll and denim jeans. And yet, despite Igor's lukewarm interest in the rapid political changes taking place in his country, this novel is unavoidably political in its subtext, as Igor, his family, and his friends mirror their nation's mood in their pursuits, problems, and concerns about the future.
From the publisher:
It's hard to be sentimental about a Cold War childhood if you grew up on the Soviet side, in the forgotten Belorussian Republic, in a crumbling industrial city like Mogilev. But it's even harder when your friends kick your ass and piss on your beloved collection of model cars. With USSR - a big title for an intimate story - Vladimir Kozlov offers an unforgettable perspective on the 1980s, when all that matters in a boy's life is Soviet rock and roll , neighborhood fights , and clumsy attempts at masturbation. With Gorbachev and Reagan lurking in the background and the Soviet economy on the verge of complete collapse, Kozlov presents life on the streets of Mogilev through the raw emotions and diabolical slang of kids who cannot fathom a world outside their own. Like a fucked-up Soviet spin on The Wonder Years, USSR reminds us that to be young is to be ruled by embarrassment and terror. But it wouldn't bother you to grow up on the crumbling edge of the Soviet Union, if only your friends would stop kicking your ass.
important novel, leading Russian cultural critic Kozlov, a kind of Russian
Chuck Klosterman, puts us right smack in the hearts and minds of those who
experienced firsthand the most wrenching socio-political transformation of
the Twentieth Century." - Jeff Parker, author of Where Bears Roam
the Streets: A Russian Journal and Ovenman
"With his tender story of struggle and patience, of individuality and the collective, Vladimir Kozlov has written a novel of quiet and ferocious intelligence, an irresistible read for anyone with even a passing interest in the ways of the Motherland." - Nathan Deuel, author of Friday Was the Bomb
"Other than Vladimir Kozlov, I can think of no contemporary Russian writer possessed of quite the same keen, unerring ear for the characteristic jagged pacing and sudden concatenations of "Soviet" parlance, or someone gifted with a comparable sharpness of vision when it comes to the myriad minute details which used to define and regulate the comforting bleakness of regular Soviet people's existence." - Mikhail Iossel (from the foreword)