Oleg Pavlov

Tales from the last Days Captain of the Steppe –The Matiuschin Case – Requiem for a Soldier
Trilogy. Centrpoligraf. Moscow 2001. 550 pages
Foreign rights: China, Croatia, France, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, UK

The settings of the three „Tales from the last Days“ are military posts in the Kazakhstan steppe, which Pavlov knows from his own experience. Using the fates and fortunes of his heroes - unimportant and humiliated soldiers - and with great linguistic intensity and an expertly crafted com- position, he demonstrates the eternal struggle for physical and mental survival under the hardest of conditions. The view from inside the penal camps has produced many famous books: Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov, Platonov,to name but a few. However,the desolate situation of Russian soldiers in general, especially of the soldiers with simple guard duties, has never before been so grippingly and poignantly expressed. Although Pavlov‘s „Tales“ are set at the end of the era of the Soviet Union, they do paint a fundamental picture of the situation in the Russian army, a situation that has scarcely improved since the time of the Soviet Union.
Death is ever present, and in the places of death life prevails. Anarchy and chance are the only means by which the individual can survive inside the strictly hierarchical structure. Those caught in this system are all weak and dejected, cruel and immune to suffering. The few moments of human warmth are seen as sheer happiness.