Category: Yuri Trifonov

book of books – The House on the Embankment

There are two approaches to trying to illustrate how oppressive a political system is. The first is to go head on and try and show how those at every level are impacted and that is where Vasily Grossman was sort of coming from with Life and Fate. Then there is an alternative approach, which is more on display here with Yuri Trifonov. He focuses on a small group of school friends but in particular Glebov and shows how in order to survive he has to become a man of almost no opinions or loyalties. Those he cares for he lets down and those he should love he betrays with indifference.

Plot summary
Glebov pops into a furniture shop to buy a dining table and when there meets an old school friends Lev who is a shop assistant and clearly down on his luck. The encounter is topped with a phone call that night after Lev blanked him in the shop with Lev explaining that he hated him and that’s why he did not want to talk to him. Then the story goes back to school and Glebov is vying for attention with Lev who seems to have a well-connected father and money. An uneasy friendship exists for years but starts to turn sour after it is Glebov who manages to win the heart of Sonya, the professor’s daughter, and not Lev who really wants her. Without realising the hatred Lev has for him or the way the academic authorities plan to use him to discredit the professor Glebov manages to get to the crossroads in life and then delay having to make a decision. Those around him that do seem to make wrong ones, with Lev falling from grace and Sonya going mad before dying. But the question you are asked at the end of the book is whether or not Glebov regrets what happened in the house on the embankment where Sonya lived.

Is it well written?
It is a struggle to get into because there are no chapter breaks, just a couple of paragraph returns and you have to work hard not just to work out what period of Glebov’s life is being discussed but also when the narration switches voices to understand another point of view. It manages to convey the sense of how the fear of standing up for anything terrorised people in the Soviet Union. It also gets across brilliantly the differences that influence can bring with Lev having access to clothes and films that his school friends could only dream of. Finally it shows that no matter what your record, in the professor’s case an exemplary one with the revolution, you are always vulnerable to attack.

Should it be read?
It is not going to be on anyone’s summer reading lists but it should be read by anyone who is interested in Soviet literature and in particular seeing what the 20th century writers were doing updating the story from the 19th century greats like Dostoyevsky. It also deserves to be read because the story here might be set against a regime that is trigger-happy about destroying people’s lives but putting that to one side there is a morale here about standing up for what you believe in. Do you let down a friend, a love and your own ideals just for immediate self-preservation? Quite a question to be asked from a novel.

Summary
Glebov gets through life unscathed while those around him die and crumble but he ends up without much more than regrets of the life in the house on the embankment he left behind

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book of books – The House on the Embankment


There are two approaches to trying to illustrate how oppressive a political system is. The first is to go head on and try and show how those at every level are impacted and that is where Vasily Grossman was sort of coming from with Life and Fate. Then there is an alternative approach, which is more on display here with Yuri Trifonov. He focuses on a small group of school friends but in particular Glebov and shows how in order to survive he has to become a man of almost no opinions or loyalties. Those he cares for he lets down and those he should love he betrays with indifference.

Plot summary
Glebov pops into a furniture shop to buy a dining table and when there meets an old school friends Lev who is a shop assistant and clearly down on his luck. The encounter is topped with a phone call that night after Lev blanked him in the shop with Lev explaining that he hated him and that’s why he did not want to talk to him. Then the story goes back to school and Glebov is vying for attention with Lev who seems to have a well-connected father and money. An uneasy friendship exists for years but starts to turn sour after it is Glebov who manages to win the heart of Sonya, the professor’s daughter, and not Lev who really wants her. Without realising the hatred Lev has for him or the way the academic authorities plan to use him to discredit the professor Glebov manages to get to the crossroads in life and then delay having to make a decision. Those around him that do seem to make wrong ones, with Lev falling from grace and Sonya going mad before dying. But the question you are asked at the end of the book is whether or not Glebov regrets what happened in the house on the embankment where Sonya lived.

Is it well written?
It is a struggle to get into because there are no chapter breaks, just a couple of paragraph returns and you have to work hard not just to work out what period of Glebov’s life is being discussed but also when the narration switches voices to understand another point of view. It manages to convey the sense of how the fear of standing up for anything terrorised people in the Soviet Union. It also gets across brilliantly the differences that influence can bring with Lev having access to clothes and films that his school friends could only dream of. Finally it shows that no matter what your record, in the professor’s case an exemplary one with the revolution, you are always vulnerable to attack.

Should it be read?
It is not going to be on anyone’s summer reading lists but it should be read by anyone who is interested in Soviet literature and in particular seeing what the 20th century writers were doing updating the story from the 19th century greats like Dostoyevsky. It also deserves to be read because the story here might be set against a regime that is trigger-happy about destroying people’s lives but putting that to one side there is a morale here about standing up for what you believe in. Do you let down a friend, a love and your own ideals just for immediate self-preservation? Quite a question to be asked from a novel.

Summary
Glebov gets through life unscathed while those around him die and crumble but he ends up without much more than regrets of the life in the house on the embankment he left behind

book of books – The House on the Embankment


There are two approaches to trying to illustrate how oppressive a political system is. The first is to go head on and try and show how those at every level are impacted and that is where Vasily Grossman was sort of coming from with Life and Fate. Then there is an alternative approach, which is more on display here with Yuri Trifonov. He focuses on a small group of school friends but in particular Glebov and shows how in order to survive he has to become a man of almost no opinions or loyalties. Those he cares for he lets down and those he should love he betrays with indifference.

Plot summary
Glebov pops into a furniture shop to buy a dining table and when there meets an old school friends Lev who is a shop assistant and clearly down on his luck. The encounter is topped with a phone call that night after Lev blanked him in the shop with Lev explaining that he hated him and that’s why he did not want to talk to him. Then the story goes back to school and Glebov is vying for attention with Lev who seems to have a well-connected father and money. An uneasy friendship exists for years but starts to turn sour after it is Glebov who manages to win the heart of Sonya, the professor’s daughter, and not Lev who really wants her. Without realising the hatred Lev has for him or the way the academic authorities plan to use him to discredit the professor Glebov manages to get to the crossroads in life and then delay having to make a decision. Those around him that do seem to make wrong ones, with Lev falling from grace and Sonya going mad before dying. But the question you are asked at the end of the book is whether or not Glebov regrets what happened in the house on the embankment where Sonya lived.

Is it well written?
It is a struggle to get into because there are no chapter breaks, just a couple of paragraph returns and you have to work hard not just to work out what period of Glebov’s life is being discussed but also when the narration switches voices to understand another point of view. It manages to convey the sense of how the fear of standing up for anything terrorised people in the Soviet Union. It also gets across brilliantly the differences that influence can bring with Lev having access to clothes and films that his school friends could only dream of. Finally it shows that no matter what your record, in the professor’s case an exemplary one with the revolution, you are always vulnerable to attack.

Should it be read?
It is not going to be on anyone’s summer reading lists but it should be read by anyone who is interested in Soviet literature and in particular seeing what the 20th century writers were doing updating the story from the 19th century greats like Dostoyevsky. It also deserves to be read because the story here might be set against a regime that is trigger-happy about destroying people’s lives but putting that to one side there is a morale here about standing up for what you believe in. Do you let down a friend, a love and your own ideals just for immediate self-preservation? Quite a question to be asked from a novel.

Summary
Glebov gets through life unscathed while those around him die and crumble but he ends up without much more than regrets of the life in the house on the embankment he left behind

book of books – The House on the Embankment


There are two approaches to trying to illustrate how oppressive a political system is. The first is to go head on and try and show how those at every level are impacted and that is where Vasily Grossman was sort of coming from with Life and Fate. Then there is an alternative approach, which is more on display here with Yuri Trifonov. He focuses on a small group of school friends but in particular Glebov and shows how in order to survive he has to become a man of almost no opinions or loyalties. Those he cares for he lets down and those he should love he betrays with indifference.

Plot summary
Glebov pops into a furniture shop to buy a dining table and when there meets an old school friends Lev who is a shop assistant and clearly down on his luck. The encounter is topped with a phone call that night after Lev blanked him in the shop with Lev explaining that he hated him and that’s why he did not want to talk to him. Then the story goes back to school and Glebov is vying for attention with Lev who seems to have a well-connected father and money. An uneasy friendship exists for years but starts to turn sour after it is Glebov who manages to win the heart of Sonya, the professor’s daughter, and not Lev who really wants her. Without realising the hatred Lev has for him or the way the academic authorities plan to use him to discredit the professor Glebov manages to get to the crossroads in life and then delay having to make a decision. Those around him that do seem to make wrong ones, with Lev falling from grace and Sonya going mad before dying. But the question you are asked at the end of the book is whether or not Glebov regrets what happened in the house on the embankment where Sonya lived.

Is it well written?
It is a struggle to get into because there are no chapter breaks, just a couple of paragraph returns and you have to work hard not just to work out what period of Glebov’s life is being discussed but also when the narration switches voices to understand another point of view. It manages to convey the sense of how the fear of standing up for anything terrorised people in the Soviet Union. It also gets across brilliantly the differences that influence can bring with Lev having access to clothes and films that his school friends could only dream of. Finally it shows that no matter what your record, in the professor’s case an exemplary one with the revolution, you are always vulnerable to attack.

Should it be read?
It is not going to be on anyone’s summer reading lists but it should be read by anyone who is interested in Soviet literature and in particular seeing what the 20th century writers were doing updating the story from the 19th century greats like Dostoyevsky. It also deserves to be read because the story here might be set against a regime that is trigger-happy about destroying people’s lives but putting that to one side there is a morale here about standing up for what you believe in. Do you let down a friend, a love and your own ideals just for immediate self-preservation? Quite a question to be asked from a novel.

Summary
Glebov gets through life unscathed while those around him die and crumble but he ends up without much more than regrets of the life in the house on the embankment he left behind

Lunchtime read concluded

The book comes to a very Russian ending with those who are dead almost being in a better position than those who are left behind to suffer on. The voices in the narrative switch back and forth between Lev and Glebov and in the end the narrator is unnamed because life has changed for everyone and although you know it is Glebov it isn’t the same Glebov from the previous 150 pages.

Highlights from pages 134 – 153
After the fateful meeting the narrative is picked up by Lev who is helping defend Moscow against the German bombs and ends up in Sonya’s flat where Glebov is saying his farewells. Lev no longer cares for anyone having gone through the baptism of fire that is the war and views the people in the house on the embankment as relics of his childhood. Glebov seems to fudge reality and cannot remember if he did or did not denounce Sonya’s father but the mother hates him and in the end Sonya ends up going into an asylum and going mad and dying. Glebov finally catches up with Sonya’s father and together they go to visit the grave and Lev is the man on the gate who lets them in and then as they all head back to Moscow city centre he wistfully looks up at the house on the embankment and wonders if he can ever return from his shattered adult life to the situation he was in when he was a child.

This is a book as much about the choices people are faced with as children and young adults and how they can shape their future and acts as a powerful metaphor for the Russian system

A review will follow in the next couple of days…

Lunchtime read concluded

The book comes to a very Russian ending with those who are dead almost being in a better position than those who are left behind to suffer on. The voices in the narrative switch back and forth between Lev and Glebov and in the end the narrator is unnamed because life has changed for everyone and although you know it is Glebov it isn’t the same Glebov from the previous 150 pages.

Highlights from pages 134 – 153
After the fateful meeting the narrative is picked up by Lev who is helping defend Moscow against the German bombs and ends up in Sonya’s flat where Glebov is saying his farewells. Lev no longer cares for anyone having gone through the baptism of fire that is the war and views the people in the house on the embankment as relics of his childhood. Glebov seems to fudge reality and cannot remember if he did or did not denounce Sonya’s father but the mother hates him and in the end Sonya ends up going into an asylum and going mad and dying. Glebov finally catches up with Sonya’s father and together they go to visit the grave and Lev is the man on the gate who lets them in and then as they all head back to Moscow city centre he wistfully looks up at the house on the embankment and wonders if he can ever return from his shattered adult life to the situation he was in when he was a child.

This is a book as much about the choices people are faced with as children and young adults and how they can shape their future and acts as a powerful metaphor for the Russian system

A review will follow in the next couple of days…

Lunchtime read: The House on the Embankment

I’m determined to finish this book today because it feels as if it has been hanging around for a long time. That’s not fair but it certainly has not been the flowing read that I had hoped. Partly that is because it is asking you as a reader some pretty heavy questions about whether or not you would make the brave turn at the crossroads or save your skin and get through by letting down friends and family.

This is part one of the final post and the rest should come later…

Highlights between pages 114 – 134
Glebov doesn’t know what to do about making his speech against his prospective father-in-law at the Academic Institute meeting so he asks Lev’s advice who tells him to dump Sonya (he wants her after all) and then as he waits and the pressure mounts his grandmother does him a favour and dies making it impossible for Glebov to go anywhere on that Thursday leaving you wondering what happened because he himself had ruled that option of not attending out because it would do nobody any good

Final chunk later…