Oleg Pavlov

The Matiushin Case

From the winner of the Solzhenitsyn Prize 2012 and the Russian Booker Prize 2002

The Matiushin Case is one of the darkest and most powerful works of fiction to appear in Russian in the last twenty years. Deriving, like Captain of the Steppe, from the author’s own traumatic experience as a conscript in the last years of the Soviet Union, it follows the experience of Matiushin, a young, sensitive, disoriented man, damaged first by violence in his family then by the brutality of army life in Central Asia.

Indebted to the different traditions of ‘labour camp prose’ pioneered by Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov, the novel is much more than an expose of societal ills, shocking enough though these are. Its literary achievement lies elsewhere: in the way that the horrific realities of conscript life are steeped in the unique mood of dreaminess and timelessness created by the setting and by Pavlov’s prose-style and in the unique type of tension that this mood creates. Matiushin’s ‘crime and punishment’ emerge from this tension with compelling inevitability; the victim turns killer. The hell that Oleg Pavlov describes is physical and societal, but above all psychological, and, as such, no less universal than that described by Dante or Dostoevsky.

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More Info

  • The Matiushin Case is the second volume in the Russian Booker winning trilogy, Tales from the Last Days.
  • The Matiushin Case made it on to Bookstrust‘s Best of 2014 translated fiction list.
Print status: Available
Author: Oleg Pavlov
Original language: Russian
Format: B-format paperback with flaps
Publication date: 10 July 2014
ISBN: 9781908276360
Ebook ISBN: 9781908276377
Availability: World
Number of pages: 256


The Guardian

‘Pavlov is revered by some as a philosophical genius whose books capture the essence of Russia and dismissed by others as a drunken grumbler. His powerfully intimate, quasi-autobiographical 1997 novel The Matiushin Case, now in English, charts the experiences of an impressionable conscript gradually dehumanised by army life.’

Publishers Weekly

‘Russian Booker Prize winner Pavlov (Captain of the Steppe) plunges readers into the grim realities of Soviet military life in the early 1980s . . . Bromfield, well-known for his translations of contemporary Russian literature, ably renders Pavlov’s prose with extremes of lyricism and banality. Pavlov pulls off a harrowing tale about institutional cruelty and the perversions of character that it produces.’

Ross McIndoe
The Skinny

‘Written in a bare, stilted style, it never plays for the high drama … choosing instead to beat steadily on from one absurdity to the next, coolly piling horror on top of horror…Seen through a lens softened by exhaustion and cheap vodka, Pavlov’s dark picture of existence becomes wryly amusing and often almost whimsical in its black humour.’