The late 1920s… Convicted of murdering his father, Artiom Goriainov is serving a sentence of several years on the Solovki Archipelago. Artiom is a strong young man who survives all facets of the hell that is the Soviet camps: hunger, cold, betrayal, the death of friends, a failed escape attempt and a love affair. Unlike the many political prisoners at Solovki, he has no strong convictions. He is an everyman who, like the Virgil of Solovki, simply narrates what is happening in front of his eyes. His only motivation is to survive.
Founded in the 15th century on an archipelago in the White Sea, from 1923 the monastery became a “camp of special designation,” the foundation stone of the Soviet GULAG system. The novel describes a period when Solovki was being converted from a re-education camp for “socially damaging elements” into what eventually became a mass labor camp. The notion of a Utopia for “forging new human beings,” complete with a library, athletic events, and research laboratories, eventually mutated into a hell of despotism and brutality.
Published with the support of the Institute for Literary Translation, Russia
Nicholas Kotar is a writer of epic fantasy inspired by Russian fairy tales, a freelance translator from Russian to English, the resident conductor of a men’s choir at a Russian monastery in the middle of cow country, and a Grammy-nominated vocalist. His only regret in life is that he wasn’t born in 19th century St. Petersburg, but he’s doing everything he possibly can to remedy that error.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“Based, apparently, on archival sources and family stories of Prilepin’s great-grandfather Zakhar Petrov, The Monastery is also a coming-of-age story in which Artiom learns the hard way that his fate is capricious and that betrayal is routine.” Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
“What could be more enlightened, for a group like the Bolsheviks whose own collective and individual past was often defined by exile or penal servitude, than to extend to each prisoner the chance to one day re-enter society a better person than when they were expelled from it?” Peter Lowe, Pushkin House blog
“After some decades of printing all these sad and tragic books, Soviet publishers ceased, and reader interest declined because digesting such awful matters is not easy. So, Prilepin’s The Monastery is one of the first books in modern Russia that once again delves into the Gulag.” Alexandra Guzeva, Russia Beyond