The Underground by Hamid Ismailov

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...The Underground recreates a lost Moscow. The narrator’s memories map out a haunting, bittersweet cityscape, with landmarks that no longer exist and names that have long since changed.
-Guardian

Synopsis


“I am Moscow’s underground son, the result of one too many nights on the town,” says Mbobo, the precocious twelve-year-old narrator of Hamid Ismailov’s The Underground. Born from a Siberian woman and an African athlete competing in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Mbobo navigates the complexities of being a fatherless, mixed-raced boy in the Soviet Union in the years before its collapse, guided only by the Moscow subway system. Named one of the "ten best Russian novels of the 21st Century" (Continent Magazine), The Underground is Ismailov’s haunting tour of the Soviet capital, on the surface and beneath. Though deeply engaged with great Russian authors of the past—Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, and, above all, Pushkin—Ismailov is an emerging master of Russian writing that reflects the country’s diversity today.

Reviews

"Hamid Ismailov has the capacity of Salman Rushdie at his best to show the grotesque realization of history on the ground."
Literary Review

"The dream of grandeur is more than justified by the artfulness of The Underground, which...create[s] the motifs of blackness, subterranean movement, and isolation that are the novel’s strongest effects."
Transitions Online

Hamid Ismailov is an Uzbek journalist, writer, and translator who was forced to flee Uzbekistan in 1992 for the United Kingdom, where he now works for the BBC World Service. His works are still banned in Uzbekistan. His writing has been published in Uzbek, Russian, French, English, and other languages. He is the author of novels including Sobranie Utonchyonnyh, Le Vagabond Flamboyant, Two Lost to Life, The Railway, The Underground, A Poet and Bin-Laden and The Dead Lake; poetry collections including Sad (Garden) and Pustynya (Desert); and books of visual poetry Post Faustum and Kniga Otsutstvi.

Carol Ermakova studied German and Russian language and literature and holds an MA in translation from Bath University. She first visited Russia in 1991. More recently, Ermakova spent two years in Moscow working as a teacher and translator. Carol currently lives in the North Pennines and works as a freelance translator.
 

About Hamid Ismailov

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Hamid Ismailov, regarded as a man of "unacceptably democratic tendencies" in Uzbekistan, was forced to flee his homeland, and so came to London in 1992. He was recruited by the BBC World Service to set up its Central Asia Service. He has published many books both in Russia and in Uzbekistan, but this is the first time his work has been translated into English. Robert Chandler has translated the poetry of Sappho and Guillaume Apollinaire, as well as novels by Vasily Grossman and Aleksandr Pushkin.
 
Published January 10, 2014 by Restless Books. 290 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Guardian

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Reviewed by Phoebe Taplin on Sep 25 2015

...The Underground recreates a lost Moscow. The narrator’s memories map out a haunting, bittersweet cityscape, with landmarks that no longer exist and names that have long since changed.

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