by Sergei Lebedev


Fiction from New Vessel Press
Translated from Russian

This disturbing tale evokes the great and ruined beauty of a land where man and machine worked in tandem with nature to destroy millions of lives during the Soviet century. Emerging from today’s Russia, where the ills of the past are being forcefully erased from public memory, this masterful novel represents an epic literary attempt to rescue history from the brink of oblivion.

SKU: 163 Category:


New Vessel Press | Fiction | 290 pages

In one of the first 21st century Russian novels to probe the legacy of the Soviet prison camp system, a young man travels to the vast wastelands of the Far North to uncover the truth about a shadowy neighbor who saved his life, and whom he knows only as Grandfather II. What he finds, among the forgotten mines and decrepit barracks of former gulags, is a world relegated to oblivion, where it is easier to ignore both the victims and the executioners than to come to terms with a terrible past

The Wall Street Journal has named this one of the ten best novels of 2016.

Translated from Russian by Antonina W. Bouis

Enjoy a generous excerpt from Oblivion in Trafika Europe 6

Sergei Lebedev was born in Moscow in 1981 and worked for seven years on geological expeditions in northern Russia and Central Asia. Lebedev is a poet, essayist and journalist. Oblivion, his first novel, has been translated into many languages.

Antonina W. Bouis is one of the leading translators of Russian literature working today. She has translated over 80 works from authors such as Evgeny Yevtushenko, Mikhail Bulgakov, Andrei Sakharov, Sergei Dovlatov and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Bouis, previously executive director of the Soros Foundation in the former USSR, now lives in New York City.


“Astonishing … ingeniously structured around the progressive uncovering of memories of a difficult personal and national past … with a visceral, at times almost unbearable, force.”

— The Times Literary Supplement


“A key novel for understanding today’s Russia … Low in sentimentalism but high in feeling … it rewards in rich surprises.”

— The Globe and Mail


Oblivion is like a detective story … A shattering novel … Its true subject matter is Russia’s present, not its past.”

— Words without Borders


“Lebedev’s debut novel evokes, in powerful poetic prose, the Soviet work camps of the Arctic north, posing a heartfelt challenge to those who prefer to forget.”

— Publishers Weekly


“Pushes poetic language to the edge … astonishing … This book’s quiet anger is well-timed.”

— Maclean’s


“A Dantean descent … In a steely translation by Antonina W. Bouis, Oblivion is as cold and stark as a glacial crevasse, but as beautiful as one, too, with a clear poetic sensibility built to stand against the forces of erasure.”

— The Wall Street Journal


“Extraordinarily intense and beautifully written … Oblivion haunts this novel. By writing it, Lebedev has given the past a present and a presence.”

— Judy Dempsey, senior associate at Carnegie Europe and editor-in-chief of Strategic Europe


“Packs a wicked emotional punch through fierce poetic imagery … Lebedev takes his place beside Solzhenitsyn and other great writers who have refused to abide by silence … Courageous and devastating.”

— Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)


“Opening in stately fashion and unfolding ever faster with fierce, intensive elegance, this first novel discloses the weight of Soviet history and its consequences … Highly recommended for anyone serious about literature or history.”

— Library Journal (Starred review)


“An extraordinary book that takes readers across Russia’s desolate northern landscape and turns up secrets about the terrible legacy of the Soviet gulags, described through evocative, often poetic portraits of people and places.”

— Celestine Bohlen, International New York Times columnist and former Moscow correspondent for The New York Times


Oblivion is the poetic monologue of a post-Soviet flâneur reflecting on the nation’s grim past. Pastoral vignettes about peaceful dacha life quickly morph into a novelistic version of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’.”

— Serguei Oushakine, Professor of Anthropology and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University


“An important book about where Russia is today, with poetic descriptions and unforgettable images evoking that nation’s often elusive attempts to understand its dark past. I stand in awe of both the author and translator.”

— Jack F. Matlock, Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union


“The subject matter of Oblivion is the eerie frozen landscape scattered with the human detritus of an inhuman bygone era. What brings it back from oblivion is the author’s exceptional power of language. A haunting read.”

— Michael Zantovsky, former press secretary to Czech President Vaclav Havel, author of Havel: A Life and former Czech Ambassador to the United States, Israel and Britain


“Beautifully written, haunting and unputdownable. A masterpiece novel which relates the horrors of Russia’s unburied Soviet past through the eyes of a man revisiting—and filling in the gaps in—his half-understood childhood.”

— Edward Lucas, senior editor, The Economist and author of The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West


“Sergei Lebedev’s debut novel is a haunting tale about the loss of national memory and its moral consequences for the individual.  The brilliant translation by Antonina W. Bouis captures the evocative beauty of the poetic first-person narration and renders it into memorable English.”

— Solomon Volkov, author of Shostakovich and Stalin, St. Petersburg: A Cultural History,
and The Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn


“A monomaniacal meditation on memory and forgetting … Lebedev’s magnificent novel has the potency to become a mirror and a wake-up call to a Russia that is blind to history.”

— Neue Zürcher Zeitung


“Sergei Lebedev opens up new territory in literature. Lebedev’s prose lives from the precise images and the author’s colossal gift of observation.”

— Der Spiegel


“The beauty of the language is almost impossible to bear. The novel luxuriates in poetic language.”

— Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung



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