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The Zero Train

Author: Yuri Buida

Translator: Oliver Ready  

Set during the Soviet era, this remarkable novel was shortlisted for the Russian Booker Prize. A remote, police-run settlement called the Ninth Siding exists only for the mysterious Zero Train that halts there. Buida uses the idea as the basis for a haunting, Kafkaesque parable of Russian history.

Recommended by Harry Blue in Scotland on Sunday

It's a brutally powerful book, set in a landscape of railway track and sidings that could have been postulated by Beckett, but shot through with grotesque, surreal lyricism. 'All the women he'd ever known had smelt of cabbage. Boiled cabbage. Every single one.' Except Fira. He saw her naked once, washing, 'her heart and its bird-like beat, the gauzy foam of her lungs and her smoky liver, the silver bell of her bladder and the fragile bluish bones floating in the pink jelly of her flesh.' A sensational novel, moving, unforgettable.

Brian Case in Time Out

A strange, Kafka-like parable.

Carrie O'Grady in The Guardian

The Zero Train is the most remarkable book I've read this year. It has been hugely successful in Russia, and was shortlisted for the Russian Booker prize. This chilling, brilliant and deeply moving novel goes to the heart of what Stalinism did to individual lives.

Helen Dunmore in The Observer Books of the Year

Oliver Ready's translation of Buida's parable is excellent and brings the author's rich colloquial Russian to life. The Kalingrad author is an exciting new voice in contemporary Russian literature, and his Zero Train a must for those interested in post-Soviet Russian fiction.

Joseph Mozur in World Literature Today

Bakunin, Buida and Pelevin are interesting contemporary writers - all well translated.

Building a 20th-century Russian literature library by Robert Chandler in The Independent on Sunday.

...a provocative and stylish novel shot through with surrealism.

Carrie Briffett in The Big Issue

Set somewhere in rural Stalinist Russia, Buida’s parable delves deep into the gritty heart of Soviet life. It's often surreal, always lyrically breathtaking, surveying a world where workers have acquired mechanical, dehumanising traits. Holding it together is tragi-hero Ivan Ardabyev, who has only ever met women that 'smells like cabbage', just one of the ways in which the novel excavates the coarseness of society. The train itself is a relentless symbol of the regime, sewn within it the mentality of the workforce. An edgy, startling read.

John Maher in Buzz Magazine

The Zero Train is a beautiful moving novel, charting the unfortunate life of Ivan Ardabyev whose sole purpose of his existence is to ensure the spooky Zero Train runs smoothly and on time through the station each day. Others around him lose their minds such is the isolation and fear of exactly what the high security trains really contain. Some are convinced that they hear screams, the darkest moment being when one girl throws herself under the oncoming train thinking she can hear her missing mother's cries. Ivan, on the other hand, fears what will become of him if the train stops one day. He rejects leaving the station for a better place, stupidly hanging on to this empty existence. Being an unwanted orphan and a nomad in his life, it appears the Zero Train is the only constant reliable presence Ivan has ever experienced. When eventually the train does stop, Ivan's mind begins to unravel as his entire world comes to an abrupt end at his own weak hands. A shortlisted entry for the Russian Booker Prize and a powerful read.

JP in The Crack

RRP: £6.99

No. of pages: 140

Publication date: 28.06.2001

ISBN numbers:
ISBN 1 903517 52 4

Rights: Dedalus World English Language
Other rights: Editions Gallimard