Machaon Publishers, Moscow
by Ammann Verlag, Zürich
The narrator of this novel returns to the Siberian town where he grew up. His Siberia has little to do with the perceptions that outsiders have about this supposedly exotic region of the world. He has only seen a bear once in his life, but it is such an unusual occurrence that his friends wouldn't believe him. Grishkovets' Siberia is a physically palpable emptiness and loneliness that is not measured in kilometers, but in the time it takes an express train to reach the next station on the line. It is normal for this to be four hours of nothing but primordial forest growing on permafrost. Siberia is disgusting industrial cities that were not designed to be lived in, and coal mines, where the men all have pale faces and eyebrows that look like they have been painted on with indelible deposits of coal dust. Siberia means knowing the right way to wear a fur hat with ear flaps, and going down to the river when the ice flows are being dynamited in the spring, and, of course, the torturous expectation of the hot, but quickly passing summer. Being a Siberian is not a matter of geography, but of psychology. "Whenever I saw the name of my town on a map of the world, or even more so, on a globe, I felt like something had been written about me personally there."
"Rivers" is not a novel in the traditional sense. It is more like a multifaceted monologue about a little person who is a part of the larger world. His river and his town, therefore, do not have names, even though it is well known that the author grew up in Kemerovo on thee river Tom. The river of the novel that Grishkovetz shows us is really the river of remembrances, made up of all the insignificant and unimportant trivialities, thoughts and feelings that go with childhood, and of which our lives are composed. The unmistakable "sound" of his novel awakens the reader's own memories and a feeling that all you really have at your disposal is what you yourself have felt and experienced.