The co-op bookstore for avid readers
Book Cover for: Baize-Covered Table with Decanter, Vladimir Makanin

Baize-Covered Table with Decanter

Vladimir Makanin

Vladimir Makanin, was the great Russian chronicler of post-Soviet society, the new Russia that is seeking to expand and bringing new terror to the world today. With taut psychological depth, wry humor, caricature, and surreal fantasy, Makanin explores the roots of that society, including inside his own head.

The hero of Baize-Covered Table undergoes a searching bureaucratic 'investigation', that staple of the old Soviet and even older Russian police state. With the naked intensity of personal nightmare, the hero anticipates and returns to the starting scene of his inquisition: the bare room, the Table, the ever-present Decanter, and behind the table those recurring phantoms, 'The former Party Man, ' "The Young Wolf, ' 'The Almost Pretty Woman, ' 'The One Who Asks the Questions.'

"It's the Table that gives power to the people behind it," says Makanin. "Take it away and they're just ordinary folk, you and me, your best friends maybe. I've lived with these phantoms from childhood. Any Russian -- it's an old Russian nightmare we're dealing with, not just a Soviet one -- would recognize the situation. Having them rummage in your insides, being helpless, belittled. You needn't have done anything to realize your helplessness, your guilt."

Vladimir Makanin welcomed perestroika, but shows in Baize-Covered Table that Homo Sovieticus never really went away. His writings on the Chechen War expose the pointless cruelty, violence and corruption of Russian soldiers like his anti-hero Asan (a Chechen honorific recalling Alexander the Great). Makanin extends the themes of Gogol and Dostoevsky and finds the downtrodden and the guilty to be the most interesting characters for a writer. His exploration of the post-Soviet culture of denunciation and interrogation recalls Kafka's The Trial.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Readers International
  • Publish Date: Apr 20th, 2023
  • Pages: 152
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 7.81in - 4.94in - 0.37in - 0.35lb
  • EAN: 9780930523664
  • Categories: GeneralRussian & Soviet

About the Author

Makanin, Vladimir: - VLADIMIR MAKANIN, born in the Russian Urals in 1937, came to prominence during the Khrushchev 'Thaw' but fell out of favor until Glasnost and Perestroika meant the end of heavy Soviet-era censorship. Baize-Covered Table with Decanter won the first post-Soviet Russian Booker Prize, and was published by Readers International as his first full-length book in English. In the 1990s Makanin achieved major recognition at home and abroad, including translation into French, German and Italian. He later won the Big Book Award for Asan, his novel exposing the corruption of the Chechen War and in 2012 won the European Prize for Literature. He died in 2017, and is revered as one of Russia's greatest modern writers.
Tait, Arch: - Born 1943 in Glasgow, Scotland, ARCH TAIT received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1967 and is one of the most prolific and acclaimed translators from Russian, specializing in modern and contemporary writers. He has published over 30 full-length translations including works by Vladimir Makanin, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya. His translation of Anna Politkovskaya's Putin's Russia was awarded the inaugural PEN Literature in Translation prize in 2010.

Praise for this book

"Glasnost revealed Makanin as one of the major writers of his generation" THE OBSERVER

"Vladimir Makanin's name belongs at the top of any list of Socialist, or now post-Socialist, Surrealists.... The aims of his fictional games are deadly serious - and that is finally what makes his writing so fresh and forceful." NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

"The novel ranges widely through space and time, evoking the physical tortures of the Stalin era, the psycho-pharmacological abuses of the Brezhnev regime, and... the purely psychological torments of the 1980s-90s.... A tour de force that...masterfully captures both the insane logic and casual cruelty of a central rite of Soviet-Russian life."


"Glancing references to his brother's schizophrenia, an intemperate remark he once made while waiting in a long line, a fracas caused when he angrily kicked a car that nearly ran him down... these and similar trivia persuade him that he's being tried for the crime of simple human imperfections." KIRKUS REVIEWS

"A lowering and frequently terrifying account - reminiscent of Nabokov's 'Invitation to a Beheading' - of both the old Soviet bureaucracy and its more recent incarnation. Makanin engages the reader artfully...." THE NEW YORKER

"[This] is as Russian as an old samovar or the wind howling across the steppes.... It ushers the reader into a world, and a way of dramatizing that world, which is exhilaratingly different from the usual home-grown fare. Arch Tait's translation displays a relish for language, a skill in choosing words, which reveals the true artist." THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH