Aleksei Nikitin

Park Pobedy Victory Park. Novel. Ad Marginem 2014. 375 pages
Foreign rights: France, Italy, Ukraine

Apocalyptic sense of doom in Kiev towards the end of the 1980s. The chestnut trees are flowering in Victory park, where veterans from Afghanistan deal in hashish while repairing the playground equipment for the children and black-marketeers entertain the corrupt police at the little kiosk. However, business seems no longer to be flourishing, its last hopeful petals have fallen, and even the corrupt militia will have a poor harvest this autumn. And all because a murder is committed which throws the old well-greased system out of balance. Suddenly all the old alliances between the serious toughs from the Victory park, who as young boys all went to the same school, begin to disintegrate. Can all this be because a simple literature student wanted to buy a pair of Puma shoes for his girlfriend - but from the wrong blackmarket dealer? In Ukraine a simple thriller would not have a chance to get even close to the truth and so this novel raises its sights to become a literary genre painting. With remarkable accuracy the author brings everything to life: from the smallest day-to-day events right up to the dizzy heights of the political stratosphere, all of the organized chaos and entanglements of Ukrainian society that have not disappeared with the demise of the Soviet-Ukraine. Through the prism of the past the reader is shown all the humanity and human failures of the problems of modern Ukraine.

The author has not only a feel for the raw nerves of a fin de siècle, but also the skill to present his hometown of Kiev ironically and season it with original anecdotes and characters. We learn the names of the villages which occupied the left bank of the Dnepr before the prefab housing blocks began their sprawl in the 1970s; why the soviet housing administration disliked pigeon post and in this did not differ from the German invaders during World War II; and how the rumour of a neglected German army bunker can develop into a real hideout for a neo-Leninist combat unit, who at the end of the novel spark off a final Maidan of the Righteous in Victory park.