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Laurus (Dutch edition)

9.9522.50

Author: Evgenij Vodolazkin

Translator: Paul van der Woerd

A herbalist experiences his own powerlessness and starts wandering. He becomes a different man, several times even: as a holy fool, pilgrim, monk and finally hermit, he feels his healing powers grow. His name changes along with it. Gradually memories, adventures and visions, past, present and future begin to merge. Language and time become fluid. Until the circle opens.

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Description

Russia around 1500. Great plagues announce the end of the world, while cross-border discoveries offer Europe unthoughty prospects.

A herbalist experiences his own powerlessness and starts wandering. He becomes a different man, several times even: as a holy fool, pilgrim, monk and finally hermit, he feels his healing powers grow. His name changes along with it. Gradually memories, adventures and visions, past, present and future begin to merge. Language and time become fluid. Until the circle opens.

In this ‘ahistoric novel’, language and history scholar Yevgeny Vodolazkin (Kiev, 1964) plays a literary game full of humour and with a touch of magic.

Published with the support of the Institute for Literary Translation, Russia

Nederlands Letterenfonds logo     Institut Perevoda

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Author

Evgenij Vodolazkin (Kiev, 1964) is a linguist and medievalist, specialized in ancient Russian literature and promoted on the place of world literature in Russian chronicle writing from the 11th to the 15th century. He is or has been associated with the universities of St. Petersburg and Munich, has more than 100 monographs, essays and scientific articles to his name and is involved in various publications and periodicals.

In 2009 he made his debut as a prose writer with the novel Solovyov and Larionov (not yet translated into Dutch). In 2013 he and Lavr definitively conquered a place in Russian literature. The book is a sensation and wins the Russian national literature prize ‘Bol’shaja kniga’ (‘The big book’) and the literature prize ‘Yasnaya Polyana’ in the 21st century category, and is nominated for the prestigious Russian Booker Prize. Vodolazkin himself acquires a reputation as ‘the Russian Umberto Eco’ – an indication that can be taken with a large grain of salt, but that does say something about the resonance of his book.

Given Vodolazkin’s background, it is not surprising that his literary work also revolves around historical and linguistic themes. Like Eco, he approaches his subjects with a great sense of detail and plays a game with them on different levels. But unlike, for example, The Name of the Rose, Lavr is not a detective; it is a saint’s life in four companies. This ‘a-historical novel’, as the Russian subtitle reads, shows how a personality develops in time and language, and conversely how the dimensions of time and language influence the perception of that personality.

The main character was born in 1440 and died in 1520. He lives in a time of great plagues, a time when the end of the world seems to be imminent; but this is also the time of cross-border discoveries, which will profoundly influence the development of mankind. During his life, he went through some radical transformations and changed his name several times.

First he is Arseni (Arsenius), the herbalist who inherits his scientific knowledge from his grandfather Christofor. Near the Kirillov-Belozerski monastery, in the north of today’s European Russia, he helps his fellow villagers with illness and other misfortune. When it turns out that he cannot save himself and his family, he starts wandering. He lives like the holy fool Estin (Justinus) in Pskov, a more western city. Then, as a pilgrim, he went via Venice to the Holy Land. After years of travelling, he returned to his homeland to retreat as the monk Amvrosi (Ambrosius). In the vicinity of the monastery of his youth, he became active again as a healer and helper and was given the honorary name of Lavr (Laurus). At his death he is honoured as a saint.

Lavr is a fascinating and deeply humanistic book about what makes us human beings: our memories and dreams for the future, our failure and our attempts to overcome failures, and the eternal conflict between what we know and what we believe.

Additional information

Dimensions N/A
Author

Evgenij Vodolazkin

Pages

348 pages

Publication date

23rd December 2015

Book Format

Paperback, EPUB, Kindle, PDF