New Jerusalem Monastery, seventeenth-century Moscow. Patriarch Nikon has instructed an itinerant French dramatist to stage the New Testament and hasten the Second Coming. But this will be a strange form of theatre. The actors are untrained, illiterate Russian peasants, and nobody is allowed to play Christ…
A stunning reflection on art, religion and national identity, The Rehearsals is the seminal work in the unique oeuvre of Vladimir Sharov, now widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding Russian writers of the past half-century. To mark the first English translation of this novel, which was written in the late 1980s, Sharov will be joined by his translator Oliver Ready and the critic Anna Aslanyan for a discussion and reading.
A recent laureate of the Russian Booker Prize, Sharov is the author of eight novels, among them Before and During, which won the Read Russia Prize in Oliver Ready’s translation in 2015. Reviewing that book in the NYRB, Rachel Polonsky commented that Sharov’s prose is ‘disconcerting, almost hallucinatory. His writing is at times funny, at times so piercingly moving, so brimful of unassuaged sorrow, that it causes a double-take.’
Sharov himself has said of his apparently extravagant fiction: ‘I write the entirely real history of thoughts, inventions and beliefs. This is the country that existed. This is our own madness, our own absurd.’
Copies of The Rehearsals, which is published by Dedalus Books, will be available for purchase at a discounted rate.
In Russian and English.
Vladimir Sharov (born 1952) is a historian of late-medieval Russia who first turned to fiction in the late 1970s. It was not until the 1990s, however, that his extraordinarily imaginative and daring novels come to the attention of the public. When they did, they caused acrimony and controversy.Sharov has said of his own writing: 'God judges us not only for our actions, but also for our intentions. I write the entirely real history of thoughts, intentions and beliefs. This is the country that existed. This is our own madness, our own absurd.'
Anna Aslanyan is a journalist and translator. She writes for the London Review of Books blog, the Times Literary Supplement and other publications, mainly about books and arts. Her translations from Russian include Post-Post Soviet? Art, Politics and Society in Russia at the Turn of the Decade, a collection of essays edited by Ekaterina Degot (University of Chicago Press, 2013), and Colonial Adventures, a forthcoming series of historical travelogues (Amherst College Press).
Oliver Ready teaches Russian literature and translation at the University of Oxford. He is the author of Persisting in Folly: Russian Writers in Search of Wisdom, 1963-2013 (Peter Lang, 2017) and is currently working towards a book on Nikolai Gogol. His translations include Crime and Punishment (Penguin, 2014), Vladimir Sharov’s novels The Rehearsals (2018) and Before and During (Read Russia Prize, 2015), and The Prussian Bride by Yuri Buida (Rossica Prize, 2005).
In collaboration with Read Russia