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What to expect
The “Metro” of the title of this brilliant and mordant social comedy refers to the Moscow underground—the sparkling subway system that enchants its young hero, seven-year-old Sasha, on his first visit to Moscow. The vaulted ceilings and gleaming escalators appear to his young eyes as emblems of a higher life, of beauty, harmony, and hidden strength. Years later, Sasha escapes the jaws of a provincial ammunition factory and returns to Moscow as an aspiring actor, whereupon he enters quite another “Moscow underground”—a Bohemian network of ardent individuals, of actors and artists, informers and alcoholics, con men and black marketeers, all subverting in their own way the dictates of the lunatic Soviet system. Alexander Kaletski’s wonderfully spirited account of Sasha’s struggles and defeats and triumphs in this vibrant underworld is without question the freshest and funniest and most moving account of the essential Russian spirit to reach American readers in decades.
Here is a cast of characters more vivid than any Sasha could ever meet on stage: Stas, the cynical wit and Virgil to Sasha’s Dante during his seven years in Moscow; the priapic Andrewlka, part-time KGB informant and full-time fornicator; Toilik, an alcoholic of folk-hero dimensions; and the lovely Lena, Sasha’s lover, inspiration, theatrical partner, and eventually his wife. Daringly operatic episodes of comedy and horror alternate with almost documentary insights into making do and getting by—how to find Moscow lodgings without propiska, the coveted residency certificate, how to avoid service in a military that routinely drafts the blind and the lame, how to achieve the most achingly desired status symbol of all—the right to travel abroad.
Metro is a love story, a tragedy, a black comedy, a novel of adventure and escape. Its bewitching hero, Sasha—naive, determined, romantic, resourceful, utterly in love with freedom—will touch listeners’ hearts. After finishing Metro, American listeners may well feel this: how wonderful not to live in Russia; how sad not to be Russian.
“Unpredictable Metro is a charmer.”Julie Reynolds, Los Angeles Herald Examiner
“Kaletski describes a uniquely Russian version of Paris and Berlin in the ’20s or Greenwich Village in the ’30s, an artistic underground full of self-invented characters.”Washington Post
“A great bear-hug of a book.”Christian Science Monitor
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