Mebet concerns a man of the taiga, a hunter, in a moving narrative that blends ethnographic detail, indigenous mythology, and the snowy landscapes of the Arctic. The protagonist is a Nenets, a member of one of the peoples who call far northern Russia home. Dubbed “The Gods’ Favorite” for his seeming imperviousness to harm or grief, Mebet earns the envy and derision of his fellow tribesmen. He lives that carefree and blessed life until his old age, when one day a supernatural messenger arrives to lead him to where the realms of the living and the dead meet. Now the Gods’ Favorite must confront the price to be paid for his elevated position, and a series of dread trials that lie in store.
Called a dark and terrifying fantasy and the Nenets Lord of the Rings by Russian writer and journalist Sergey Kuznetsov, Grigorenko’s Mebet is a powerful story about humanity, personal fate, and responsibility. Leading Russian literary critic Galina Yuzefovich welcomed Mebet as a true epic for the Nenets, a book that is profound, thrilling and vibrant. Whether the book will earn that lofty place within Nenets culture remains to be seen, but the very publication of the book marks a watershed event.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“Mebet is anything but uninteresting, probably because Grigorenko so successfully channels what is frozen, anthropological, ethnographic, folkloric, and (again) frozen into the story of one man’s successes (mostly in hunting, often done in others’ territory, and in battle with neighboring peoples, sometimes using tricks) and failures (mostly in dealing with other human beings).” Lisa Hayden, Lizok’s Bookshelf
“It’s hardly going out on a limb to predict that you’re unlikely to read another book like this all year, or for several years, or at least not until Glagoslav releases the other two volumes of the trilogy, if they do.” Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books
“Mebet is a welcome addition to the contemporary Russian literary scene, and will be of special interest to lovers of Russian folklore and the many readers who enjoyed Vodolazkin’s Laurus.” Brandy Harrison, Russophile Reads
“In the original Russian, Mebet is the first part of a trilogy by Grigorenko. English readers should hope that the subsequent two novels will also be translated to help open the window wider onto this little-discovered part of the world.” Stephen Dalziel, Sibirica
“Christopher Culver’s translation seems flawless.” Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
“I particularly enjoyed having a window into Nenets life, culture, myth and legend, and although Mebet is in no way a sympathetic protagonist, the adventure he embarks on is a compelling one.” Mandy Jenkinson, Historical Novel Society
“Readers who decide to try the book will be rewarded with a fast-paced story set in a little-known Siberian culture. It doesn’t quite fit in with most Western fantasy genres; the closest I can come would be a kind of fairy-tale retelling with elements of life Beyond the Wall in the Song of Ice and Fire series.” E.P. Clark, Goodreads