Definitely Maybe – Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Malianov, an astrophysicist, keeps getting distracted as he is working towards a breakthrough in his current project. He receives mysterious visitors, and his scientist friends are behaving very strangely. Slowly, disturbing signs emerge that there is some sort of conspiracy afoot. Malianov tries to figure out what’s really going on while all around him is confusion and paranoia.

When I think of a Russian Novel, this is the kind of book I think of: gruelling mundanity, some climactic scenes, with a background of hopelessness and nameless dread. That’s an unfair stereotype – Anna Karenina, which is surely The Russian Novel, isn’t like that at all – but I think it does apply here. It would be quite unsatisfying for a book like this to have a satisfying ending, and it doesn’t disappoint, which is to say that it is satisfyingly unsatisfying.

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