Cynics (Anatoly Marienhof)

Cynics is a novel by Anatoly Marienhof. I read the German translation by Brigitte van Kann and Gregor Jarcho.
Finished on: 28.10.2019

Vladimir and Olga are a young couple who used to be well-off. But thanks to the October Revolution, they lost their standing and completely withdrew from society. Unable to adapt ot the changes, they focus on themselves. But their cynical way of treating each other doesn’t promise much relief.

Cynics was a nice introduction to Marienhof for me. A smart, well-observed novel that offers a glimpse into the Soviet Union in the 20s. I really enjoyed it.

The book cover held in simple white.

Cynics is a novel made of diary-like fragments and I especially enjoyed the first year it chronicles. It was definitely the funniest part of the novel, in a very absurd way. It is filled with many sharp observations that Marienhof captures with excellent descriptions.

While in the later parts, the descriptions remain fantastic, the tone of the novel becomes heavier and a lot more depressing. That means that it simply isn’t as enjoyable anymore. In fact, it does become slightly boring in its oppressive tone. A well-placed joke here and there might have kept things more engaging.

In any case, Cynics sheds a good light on the 20s in the Soviet Union and the many ways life changed through the revolution, and not necessarily in a good way. (Marienhof mostly published his writing after Cynics in other countries, because the Soviet Union didn’t care for his depiction here.) And it definitely left me curious to read more Marienhof.

Summarizing: Recommended.

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