by Julie HaleFebruary, 2007
The Dream Life of Sukhanov
Grushin, who was born in Moscow, makes an impressive debut with this compelling tale of life in modern-day Russia. Anatoly Sukhanov is a talented avant-garde painter with a growing reputation when he marries Nina Malinin, the daughter of one of Russia's most famous artists. After their marriage, Sukhanov gives up his work and turns his hand to art criticism. Relinquishing his love of the avant-garde and taking on the editorship of Art of the World, an important cultural review, he turns his back on the creative life to enjoy newfound wealth and national recognition. This betrayal of beliefs catches up with Sukhanov a decade later, in 1985, when he is no longer writing, and Gorbachev's presence on the political scene is altering the course of daily life in Moscow. Matters come to a head when a man purporting to be Sukhanov's cousin drops in for an extended visit, and he starts to have dreams about his past life as a painter. Sukhanov also discovers that Nina has made her own difficult choices concerning love and work. Sukhanov's revelations about himself and his family come at a critical time in Russian history, when politics and society are changing at a rapid rate. Grushin handles these topics deftly, creating a wise yet humorous narrative that has been compared to the work of Nikolai Gogol and Vladimir Nabokov. A reading group guide is available at www.penguin.com.