Sankya is a controversial book and Zakhar Prilepin is a controversial author. It’s dicey to say much more than that without going into it at some length. But suffice to say that English readers haven’t seen a portrait of Russia like the portrait here. Sasha “Sankya” Tishin, and his friends are part of a generation stuck between eras. They don’t remember the Soviet Union, but they also don’t believe in the promise of opportunity for all in the corrupt, capitalistic new Russia. They belong to an extremist group that wants to build a better Russia by tearing down the existing one. Sasha, alternately thoughtful and naïve, violent and tender, dispassionate and romantic, hopeful and hopeless, is torn between the dying village of his youth and the soulless capital, where he and his friends stage rowdy protests and do battle with the police. When they go too far, Sasha finds himself testing the elemental force of the protest movement in Russia and in himself. It’s an incredibly soulful book, and, it seems to me, at least in part,a cautionary tale about extremism along the lines of Dostoevsky’s Demons. Chapter Four, which is about Sankya’s journey to bury his father in the dying ancestral village he’s from, is one of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever read. Translation accomplished with the inimitable Alina Ryabovolova and Mariya Gusev.
“If you want to feel the real raw nerve of modern Russian life, what you need isn’t Anna Karenina—what you need is Sankya.” — From the Foreword to the English edition of Sankya by Alexey Navalny
“This is a novel of ideas, a novel of action, and a novel of heartbreak and beauty. Many might consider Sasha an anti-hero due to his political beliefs and his destructive tendencies, yet it is undeniable that he is trying to fill the well deep within himself with meaning. To me, that makes him a riveting character, and with him at the helm, Sankya takes its place among the best coming-of-age and political novels.” —Kseniya Melnik
Reviews & Coverage: