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Here is a novel with no parallel in contemporary literature, a novel where fantasy does constant battle with the insane intention of embracing all of history with a single story.' Paul Lequesne in Le Monde 'Sharov has assimilated, perhaps more than any of his contemporaries, the artistic and philosophical legacy of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries of Russian literature. Like Dostoevsky, he is excessive not in order to deny, misrepresent, or flee reality but, rather, to capture it more accurately.' Thomas Epstein, Boston College 'Some of the book's elements – madness, fantasy, biblical references – are reminiscent of The Master and Margarita, but the analogy with Bulgakov does not run very deep. Sharov's real precursor is Andrey Platonov, who was influenced by Fyodorov's teachings and drew strong parallels between Soviet ideology and religion. If Russian history is indeed a commentary to the Bible, then Before and During is an audacious attempt to shine a mystical light on it, an unusual take on the 20th century's apocalypse that leaves the reader to look for their own explications.' Anna Aslanyan in The Independent 'Before and During is not a historical novel. Rather, it is closer to one of Mikhail Bakhtin's carnivalesque venues, a Menippean satire in which historical reality, in all its irreversible awfulness, is for a moment scrambled, eroticized ... and illuminated by hilarious monologues of the dead... There are wonderful stretches: an exegesis of Tolstoy's failure to achieve the good in his own family;... an astonishing olfactory history of the First World War and Revolution through Scriabin's music. How Sharov resolves the rejection of death is especially good... With this elegant and dry-eyed translation by Oliver Ready, anglophone audiences can finally weigh in.' Caryl Emerson in The Times Literary Supplement

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