Recalling the open-hearted honesty of Ben Lerner and the whisky-sour satire of Bret Easton Ellis, Back to Moscow is a dazzlingly original, witty and ultimately haunting debut.
Months after his arrival in Moscow, doctoral student Martin hasn’t written a word of his thesis on the heroines of the Russian classics because, for him and his expat friends, the cheap, bright lure of nightclubs, vodka and real women is predictably hard to resist. It’s the early 2000s and the city is storming into the twenty-first century – the grim old soviet certainties are fading as money and an assertive political elite rise to power. Martin finds himself torn between opposing sensibilities: on the one hand, the limpid appeal of Lena, and her insistence on the Mysterious Russian Soul; on the other, that of his research supervisor Lyudmila Aleksandrovna, diligent, serious, caught in the shadow of a soviet past. Can the fates of Anna Karenina, Pushkin’s Tatyana or Chekhov’s three sisters help him understand the women in his life?
Martin’s restless explorations turn into a half-grasped search for meaning as Moscow leads him to dark and unexpected places tinged by Russia’s ever-present sense of impending tragedy.