Captain of the Steppe

Captain of the Steppe front coverMy translation of Казённая сказка by Russian Booker prize winner and Solzhenitsyn Prize laureate Oleg Pavlov was published by And Other Stories on April 15, 2013. It also carries an introduction by Marcel Theroux.

Deep in the desolate steppe, Captain Khabarov waits out his service at a camp where the news arrives in bundles of last year’s papers and rations turn up rotting in their trucks. One Spring, he decides to plant a field of potatoes to feed his half-starved men . . .

This blackly comic novel shows the unsettling consequences of thinking for yourself under the Soviet system. Oleg Pavlov’s first novel, published when he was only 24, Captain of the Steppe was immediately praised for its chilling but humane and hilarious depiction of the Soviet Empire’s last years.

To whet your appetite, read this extract. Buy the book here or ask your local bookshop to order it for you.

Praise for Oleg Pavlov’s Captain of the Steppe:

  • ‘Pavlov imbues his world with a very particular flavour: the mixture of tragedy, absurdity and black comedy that runs in the veins of Russian literature as far back as the work of Nikolai Gogol … Pavlov fashions a disquieting and comic elegy.’ Marcel Theroux
  • ‘His tales delve into the world of soldiers sent to the bleakest regions of central Asia, where their hopelessness ends up matching that of their prisoners, whose absurd routine, hunger and boredom they share. This is Berg’s Wozzek set in Buzzati’s Tartar Steppe.’ Jacque Franck,
  • ‘An extraordinary portraitist, with a nose for trenchant, black humour, Oleg Pavlov delves into the shadowy outer edges of existence.’ France Culture
  • ‘Poetry, sensuality, humour, metaphoric genius’ Philippe Delaroche, L’Express Culture avec Lire
  • ‘Oleg Pavlov is one of the best contemporary Russian authors … There are moments of great humanity in this book, for Pavlov gives a voice to every human being, even the most pathetic. When nothing of value remains, we still have language.’ Nils C. Ahl, Art Press
  • ‘Captain of the Steppe seems to be stuck in the vast, boundless and bottomless space, where there is no roof and no place to hide.’ Inna Borisova