Beyond being a person who loves books, I have a strange fascination and addiction to fiction books written about other fictional books. Maybe it’s because I get so easily drawn into the main characters, who are inevitably like me, bibliophiles, but whatever the case I find my imagination crystalizes inside those tales of long, lost tomes full of history, power and sometimes danger.
The Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov is the tale of Alexi Vyazintsev, a young man who goes off to tie up the affairs of a recently departed uncle in a distant Russian town. Instead of finding the end of one life, he finds the beginning of a new, mysterious, and violent one. The veil is lifted off a secret world of adherents to a series of books written by a largely forgotten novelist. For most people the books are meaningless, but for those who know the trick they unlock amazing and terrible power, possibly enough to protect the entire country forever.
Diving into a book translated from Russian can sometimes be daunting. Even in your native tongue it can feel rough and stilted, but not under the skillful pen of Elizarov. The opening pages give a sense of calm, order, and routine which is quickly betrayed by the inertia of fate. It ramps up quickly and rages like a caged bear for much of the book.
The ending slows down, but it can be debated as to whether this is a result of the writing style or the content itself.
The Librarian reads like cold fire, full of Russian stoicism, honor, and intense formality, but the rhythm of the words is hypnotic.
Elizarov may not be a household name in the U.S., but he’s written three novels, all of which were nominated for various literary awards. This particular book, written in 2007, was awarded the Russian Booker Prize.
There is no doubt I will be looking into more of his work, as long as I can find it translated. I’m too old to learn to read Russian now.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1782270272]