A Present Past: Titan and Other Chronicles Spiral-Bound | April 11, 2023

Sergei Lebedev, Antonina W. Bouis (Translated by)

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A much-awaited new book by celebrated Russian novelist Sergei Lebedev, using spectral tales to uncover buried truths about his country's totalitarian past.

"A tour de force—exquisite and gripping."—Philippe Sands, author of East West Street

The Soviet and post-Soviet world, with its untold multitude of crimes, is a natural breeding ground for ghost stories. No one writes them more movingly than Russian author Sergei Lebedev, who in this stunning volume probes a collective guilty conscience marked by otherworldliness and the denial of misdeeds. These eleven tales share a mystical topography in which the legacy of totalitarian regimes is ever-present—from Katyn to Chechnya, from Lithuanian KGB documents to the streetscape of unified Berlin, from the fragments of family history to the echoes of foot soldiers in Russia’s wars of aggression. In these stories, as in Lebedev’s acclaimed novels, the voices of things, places, animals, and people seek justice for a restless past, where steel claws scrape just beneath the surface and where the heredity of evil is uninterrupted, unacknowledged, unnamed.

Publisher: Consortium Book Sales & Distribution
Original Binding: Trade Paperback
Pages: 288 pages
ISBN-10: 1954404182
Item Weight: 0.68 lbs
Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.0 inches
Customer Reviews: No Rating out of 5 stars Up to 30 ratings
"A tour de force—exquisite and gripping, finely translated, fiction that pulls you into the beautiful and brutal service of imagining and understanding the human realities of modern Russia, a series of tales meticulously crafted and deeply imagined."
—Philippe Sands, author of East West StreetThe Ratlineand The Last Colony

"One of Russia's most prominent contemporary writers, Lebedev, 41, has been hailed for a series of novels that hold a mirror up to Russia's blighted past. A former geologist, he chips away at the deep strata of his country's 20th century history, the seams of trauma concealed by a state-sanctioned campaign of oblivion."
—The Financial Times

“A luminous and magical writer, Sergei Lebedev excavates the Soviet past and gives voice to its restless ghosts. By exploring Russia’s dark history he sheds light on its terrible present. Lebedev’s stories are urgent and compelling at a time when a Kremlin leader is waging a myth-inspired war in Ukraine.”
—Luke Harding, author of Invasion: The Inside Story of Russia's Bloody War and Ukraine's Fight for Survival

"Memories of the Soviet era emerge through relics, landmarks, and fantastical occurrences in this satisfying collection . . . Lebedev adds vibrant lyrical descriptions to the strange interplay of past and present . . . There's a real payoff to these rich and ambiguous stories."
—Publishers Weekly

"A Present Past: Titan and Other Chronicles is a captivating set of short stories by Sergei Lebedev. He is gifted at dissecting the nature of totalitarianism, its demise, and the role of the past in today's Russia."
–Judy Dempsey, senior fellow, Carnegie Europe

"Each of these tales grabs the reader like an enchantment . . . Lebedev possesses prodigious powers of description that can make even a barn into an otherworldly object of fascination, as well as the knack for a well-placed, creepy detail that sends a chill up the reader's spine."
—Powell's Book Blog

"Fascinating . . . These are all superb stories, linked by looking at both the Soviet and post-Soviet world."
—The Modern Novel

Reviews of OBLIVION:

"Not since Alexander Solzhenitsyn has Russia had a writer as obsessed as Sergei Lebedev with that country's history or the traces it has left on the collective consciousness ... The best of Russia's younger generation of writers."—The New York Review of Books

"A geologist by training, Lebedev’s fiction excavates what lies beneath: the inner lives of earlier generations, buried under layers of official myth and self-deceit … the strange dualism that allows loving fathers to serve tyranny by day and to tuck their children up at night.”—The Guardian

"A Dantean descent ... In a steely translation by Antonina W. Bouis, Oblivion is as cold and stark as a glacial crevasse, but as beautiful as one, too, with a clear poetic sensibility built to stand against the forces of erasure."The Wall Street Journal

"Astonishing ... ingeniously structured around the progressive uncovering of memories of a difficult personal and national past ... with a visceral, at times almost unbearable, force."The Times Literary Supplement

"Opening in stately fashion and unfolding ever faster with fierce, intensive elegance, this first novel discloses the weight of Soviet history and its consequences. ... Highly recommended for anyone serious about literature or history."Library Journal (Starred review)

"Packs a wicked emotional punch through fierce poetic imagery ... Lebedev takes his place beside Solzhenitsyn and other great writers who have refused to abide by silence ... Courageous and devastating."Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)

Sergei Lebedev has been called the most important younger Russian author writing today. His novels have been translated into many languages and four of his works—UntraceableOblivionThe Year of the Comet, and The Goose Fritz—have been published in English by New Vessel Press to great acclaim.

Antonina W. Bouis is one of the leading translators of Russian literature now at work. She has translated over eighty works from authors such as Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Andrei Sakharov. Bouis, previously executive director of the Soros Foundation in the former USSR, now lives in New York City.