Zakhar Prilepin’s novel-in-stories Sin has become a literary phenomenon in Russia, where it was published in 2007. It has been hailed as the epitome of the spirit of the opening decade of the 21st century, and was called “the book of the decade” by the prestigious Super Natsbest Award jury. Now available for the first time in English, it not only embodies the reality of post-perestroika Russia, but also shows that even in this reality, just like in any other, it is possible to maintain a positive attitude while remaining human.
Zakharka is young, strong, in love with love and with life’s random, telling moments. In the episodes of his life, presented here in non-chronological order, we see him as a little boy, a lovelorn teenager, a hard-drinking grave-digger, a nightclub bouncer, a father, and a soldier in Chechnya. He even writes poetry, and his stylistically varied verses are presented in the penultimate chapter of the book. Loving life, he looks boldly, and even with curiosity, into the face of death – taking pictures of the deceased at a funeral, staring with agitation at the entrails of a just-disemboweled pig, chronicling the death of a childhood friend – and values the freedom of not fearing his own end. It is family that ultimately defines happiness for Zakharka; but it is also family that makes him realize, on the desolate Chechen border, that his love for them has deprived him of this freedom.
Sin offers a fascinating glimpse into the recent Russian past, as well as its present, with its unemployment, poverty, violence, and local wars – social problems that may be found in many corners of the world. Zakhar Prilepin presents these realities through the eyes of Zakharka, taking us along on the life-affirming journey of his unforgettable protagonist.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“Zakhar Prilepin represents much of what is confusing and contradictory about contemporary Russia. And on the other hand, it’s all absolutely simple. He’s a pro-Stalinist member of the anti-Putin opposition, a writer who exposes the dark side of modern Russian life while volunteering in the army of the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic. Western readers may find these apparent contradictions frustrating…” Dr E.P. Clark
Zakhar Prilepin’s “emotional Sin draws on his own experiences as a bouncer, journalist and soldier. Sin is not a novel in the conventional sense, but a connected series of short stories, skipping from married happiness back to teenage encounters with sex and death, and then forward again to adult scenes of vodka-drinking or grave-digging.” Phoebe Tapli, The World Today
“In a sense, being a well-formed character for Prilepin is a kind of death sentence – you are finished, fully-drawn. It is Zakhar the blank slate who will survive, the one stubbornly resisting everything from journalism to poetry to work to commitment, but who you sense is reading, feeling his way towards writing and family and is on the way to becoming the Zakhar who will eventually be capable of writing this phenomenal book.” literalab
“The book itself is essentially a novel-instories, tracking the life of Zakharka from a small central Russian village to a distant military outpost in Chechnya. These episodes are non-chronologically arranged, and the novel opens with Zakharka as a young journalist in the midst of a passionate love affair in an unnamed provincial town.” Lewis White, The Scotland-Russia Review
“And he (Prilepin) is probably the most important writer in modern Russia, a sensitive and intelligent critic of his country’s condition. To understand Russia today, you need to understand Prilepin — first and foremost because he doesn’t fit into the preconceptions most outsiders have about the place. Prilepin is an intensely male writer — like Ernest Hemingway, he’s intoxicated with the rituals and bonds of maleness, and, by extension, war, which he sees as the ultimate test of manhood.” Russia’s Young Hemingway, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE
“It’s hard to explain the effect of Zakhar Prilepin’s book called Грех (Sin), which won this year’s National Bestseller prize. The book describes itself as a novel in short stories – not quite accurate, since there is also a section of poetry – and each piece about a young man named Zakhar establishes its own mood. All the stories, though, combine threads of tenderness, rage, and тоска (toska), an untranslatable Russian word that represents a sort of soulful yearning and worry.” Lisa C. Hayden, Lizok’s Bookshelf
“It is an intensely human story that takes you to a different place that, at the same time, feels familiar.” Alan Caruba, BOOKVIEWS
“Zakhar Prilepin’s obsession with exploring the nature of Russian identity roots the book in a particular literary tradition. But his dark vision of Russian life in the novel Sin reveals that life can, and perhaps will, get better.” RUSSIA BEYOUND THE HEADLINES
“Amid chaos, instead of complaining or joining criminals, Zakhar keeps his human dignity and integrity. He enjoys what he has and life as it is. He loves and is being loved. For Zakhar, under the veil of male toughness and physical strength, there is also a caring and tender heart.“ Damira Davletyarova, Ottawa Life Magazine
“Prilepin is the biggest event in today’s Russian literature; his language reminds us of Tolstoy.” Tatyana Tolstaya, famous Russian writer
“This book gives you the impulse to live your life to the fullest without shallow hesitations.” Dmitry Bykov, famous Russian writer and journalist
“ … this writer has simply become a phenomenon which is impossible to ignore.” Alexander Garros, famous Russian writer
“Zakhar Prilepin has experienced a meteoric rise, both as a literary phenomenon and an opposition figure. At 36, he is one of Russia’s acclaimed authors, and his novel Sin was voted one of the most important books to come out of Russia in the past decade.” Anna Nemtsova, “A Chronicler of the Brutal and the Everyday”, Russia Now