The Commissariat of Enlightenment by Ken Kalfus
A Novel

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Synopsis

Russia, 1910. Leo Tolstoy lies dying in Astapovo, a remote railway station. Members of the press from around the world have descended upon this sleepy hamlet to record his passing for a public suddenly ravenous for celebrity news. They have been joined by a film company whose cinematographer, Nikolai Gribshin, is capturing the extraordinary scene and learning how to wield his camera as a political tool. At this historic moment he comes across two men -- the scientist, Professor Vorobev, and the revolutionist, Joseph Stalin -- who have radical, mysterious plans for the future. Soon they will accompany him on a long, cold march through an era of brutality and absurdity. The Commissariat of Enlightenment is a mesmerizing novel of ideas that brilliantly links the tragedy and comedy of the Russian Revolution with the global empire of images that occupies our imaginations today.

 

About Ken Kalfus

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Ken Kalfus is the author of two novels, The Commissariat of Enlightenment and A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, which was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award. He's also published two collections of stories, Thirst and Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. His books have been translated into more than ten foreign languages. He lives in Philadelphia.
 
Published February 19, 2009 by HarperCollins e-books. 308 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Commissariat of Enlightenment

Kirkus Reviews

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Kalfus (stories: PU-239, 1999, etc.) now turns his attention to pseudonymous “Comrade Astapov” (whom we’ve met previously), a veteran of the European War and connoisseur of the still-developing art of cinema, whose technical knowledge is now employed by the eponymous Commissariat, a recently form...

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The Guardian

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He links the deaths of two icons - Tolstoy and Lenin - by imagining that three men attended both: an embalmer, a filmmaker and Stalin.

Apr 05 2003 | Read Full Review of The Commissariat of Enlighten...

Publishers Weekly

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Those who resist the commissariat include a church congregation that refuses to give up its faith, an experimental theater director, and a resilient young woman who makes an abstract, pornographic film in the name of sexual education for women.

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Star Tribune

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Review: Kalfus' smooth, satiric first novel rewrites the history of Russia's 1917 revolution to capture the hope and folly of an era when anything seemed possible.

Feb 01 2003 | Read Full Review of The Commissariat of Enlighten...

Entertainment Weekly

One comrade to another on young Stalin: ''He's the most reckless, untrustworthy, impudent revolutionist that there ever was!'') While Nikolai seems to evolve into one Comrade Astapov, a bureaucrat charged with ''conquering the Russian imagination,'' his cool appraisals of propagandistic intr...

Feb 14 2003 | Read Full Review of The Commissariat of Enlighten...

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