Book Review: Fardwor, Russia! A Fantastical Tale of Life under Putin – Oleg Kashin

By Jade Fell

“I predict we will abolish suffering throughout the living world. Our descendants will be animated by gradients of genetically pre-programmed well-being that are orders of magnitude richer than today’s peak experiences.” ― David Pearce

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Translated by Will Evans, Restless Books, 12 January 2016, 224 pp, ISBN 978-1-632060-39-6, £9.99 paperback

Oleg Kashin is a rather notorious Russian journalist whose open criticism of the Putin government may or may not have motivated unknown assailants to beat him to within an inch of his life back 2010. You’d think such an event would put the dampeners on a guy, but apparently Kashin was undeterred and returned full force to publish his first work of fiction, Fardwor, Russia! A Fantastical Tale of Life Under Putin, in Moscow, just two months later. Now, in a new edition translated by Will Evans, Fardwor, Russia! has been made available for international audiences with a taste for controversial political satire. The ridiculous sci-fi dystopia nestled within the garish pink cover bares more than a slight similarity to Russia under Putin and, with new stories of corruption in the Kremlin making the front page of international news sites each month, it has never been more topical.

The main protagonist of Fardwor, Russia! is Karpov, an enthusiastic young scientist who, with the help of his deceased grandfather, invents a revolutionary new growth serum that actually works. In an old wooden shack, which serves as a makeshift laboratory, Karpov spends his days experimenting on common sewer rats and creating unspeakable monstrosities, while his long-suffering wife, Marina, sits mournfully in their dusty apartment lamenting a life left behind in Moscow.

Delighted with his results, Karpov begins offering the serum to local farmers, promising fully grown livestock in exchange for new-born piglets and calves, before tracking down a circus midget. Unfortunately for poor, deluded Karpov he is wholly unequipped to deal with the full force of his discovery, and before he can reap any rewards all hell breaks loose. The meat industry is furious with the prospect of cheap meat resulting from an abundance of livestock; a dwarf oil oligarch makes use of the serum before running away with Karpov’s wife; and a giant cat goes on a rampage and eats a man’s face and heart. But it is not until the professional scientists get hold of the serum that things get really ugly.

Fardwor, Russia! is wonderfully strange and fantastically frightening, a gruesome yet hilarious tale of genetic engineering gone awry, combined with a grim political parable of the danger of power in the wrong hands. A ludicrous satire with a serious twist – Fardwor, Russia! is a must read those with an interest in Russian politics, or fans of science fiction that borders on the ridiculous.

 

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