Author Topic: Golden Bone  (Read 1240 times)

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Offline Elisabeth

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Golden Bone
« on: August 16, 2005, 02:29:31 PM »
I came across this review by Michael Ney of a novel that is provoking a lot of comment in Russia at the moment. It was published by Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie to rave reviews. As far as I know it has not been translated into English yet, but it might be of interest to forum members who can read Russian, because it purports to be the story of a claimant to the Russian throne! Here is an excerpt from the review:  

Roland Harrington’s novel Golden Bone ("Zolotaia kost’"), which is composed of successive stories-within-a-story, is reminiscent of a matryoshka, a colorful Russian nesting doll. It is an exuberant fusion of genres, styles, discourses and themes, a literary tour de force encyclopedic in its scope and towering in its ambition. A provocative, transgressive commentary on Russia and the Russians, it ranges over two hundred years of Russian history. It will upset as many readers as it will delight, for it knocks down row upon row of Russia’s cultural and political idols like so many bowling pins.

Golden Bone tells the story of Roland Harrington, a professor at Madison University who travels to Putin’s Russia, learns that he is a descendant of Catherine the Great and crowns himself – or perhaps doesn’t – the country’s czar. In the course of his real-time and astral wanderings he meets or communes with the Russian rulers Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Elizabeth, Peter III, Catherine the Great, Alexander I, Nicholas I and Nicholas II and Alexandra, as well as famous writers such as Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Feodor Dostoevsky. He encounters modern-day celebrities and socialites, as well as a group of fictional characters representative of the new post-communist Russia. These include the limp-wristed liberal Mikhail Pelikanov, the fanatical Slavophile Venia Varikozov, the brutal gangster Boris Bizonov and his alluring wife Florinda, and the Dostoevskian wretch Rodion Goremykin. At one point Harrington outlines his plans for the restoration of the monarchy to a conference of claimants to the Russian throne held in St. Petersburg, provoking a riot by the assembled Grand Dukes and Duchesses at which much (supposedly) blue blood is spilled!

The fictive world dreamed up by Harrington is both comic and surreal. It is ever-shifting, ever-changing. Order and chaos reign here in equal measure. The rules are – there are no rules. The professor is part and parcel of this phantasmagoric, psychedelic environment. Like his ancestor Hyacinth von Haken, an eighteenth-century "(P)Russian" admiral who was "ferocious, but fair" and "harsh, but humane," Harrington is a contradiction in terms, a creative construct that forever escapes cultural and psychological definition. He is macho and mild, wise and wild, saintly and sinful, virtuous and depraved, mystical and skeptical, democratic and aristocratic, American and Russian.

This novel also presents us with a mystery: who is its real author? Who hides behind the literary pseudonym of Roland Harrington? There is no Madison University in the United States. After extensive research, I was able to identify only two individuals named Roland Harrington, neither of whom is a professor at an American university. The real author may in fact be a Russian masquerading as an American. His native-level command of Russian and incessant, difficult word-play seem to indicate as much. But no one knows. It is a mystery currently preoccupying the Russian literary world.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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