I have just this moment, 22 August 2022, signed an agreement with a publisher to translate Alexey Ivanov’s fabulously-written 2018 novel “Пищеблок” (working title ‘The Food Block’).
Alexey Ivanov has written twelve novels, published between 1992 (‘Dormitory on the Blood’) and 2021 (‘Shadows of the Teutons’). Alexey’s novels have won numerous awards, and he has been nominated three times for the National Bestseller prize. His 2003 novel ‘The geographer drank away his globe’ was made into a multi-award-winning film starring Konstantin Khabensky. Пищеблок itself has been made into a television serial which first aired in 2021.
As Alexey Ivanov himself says, at first sight, Пищеблок is an archetypal Pioneer story. The summer of 1980, the Olympics, a small Pioneer camp on the banks of the Volga. The pioneers live their children’s lives. They fall out, make up, play tricks. The young group leaders fall in love with one another. The river bus brings drums of milk and boxes of pasta to the camp. But the novel’s heroes begin to notice that some of the young leaders are suddenly becoming very ‘correct’. They appear, indeed, to have espoused the moral codex of the builders of communism. What can have happened to them?
They have become vampires. The outward manifestations of the change include, of course, a desire to drink the blood of their young comrades. At the same time, their devotion to the Soviet system and ideology sharpens and grows. Even Soviet dogma acquires a mystical meaning. The pioneer tie and flag become charms against the sunlight; the hammer and sickle are interpreted as phases of the moon; the aspen pole becomes the hammer with which the vampires are battered.
Alexey is at pains to stress that Пищеблок is not making fun of the Soviet order. It is not a postmodern farce, and not a genre work. It is, in his words, a very bright, nostalgic, joyful, and enthralling novel. It speaks of how state ideology, even where its design is oriented towards the ideal, is nevertheless something dead―here represented by the vampires. Meanwhile, love and friendship are forever living things.
Пищеблок is a book of subtlety, depth, and building tension which crackles with delightful dialogue, exudes humour that does not make fun, and explores with apparently effortless insight the loves and energy, hopes and doubts, and fears and courage of childhood and youth.
The Russian original can already be enjoyed in book, audiobook and television serial form. The English translation is scheduled to be available by June 2024.