Limonov

Written by Emmanuel Carrère; John Lambert (Translator)
Limonov
By Emmanuel Carrère
Translated by John Lambert
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)

A thrilling page-turner that also happens to be the biography of one of Russia’s most controversial figures

This is how Emmanuel Carrère, the magnetic journalist, novelist, filmmaker, and chameleon, describes his subject: “Limonov is not a fictional character. There. I know him. He has been a young punk in Ukraine, the idol of the Soviet underground; a bum, then a multimillionaire’s butler in Manhattan; a fashionable writer in Paris; a lost soldier in the Balkans; and now, in the fantastic shambles of postcommunism, the elderly but charismatic leader of a party of young desperadoes. He sees himself as a hero; you might call him a scumbag: I suspend my judgment on the matter. It’s a dangerous life, an ambiguous life: a real adventure novel. It is also, I believe, a life that says something. Not just about him, Limonov, not just about Russia, but about all our history since the end of the Second World War.”

So Eduard Limonov isn’t fictional—but he might as well be. This pseudobiography isn’t a novel, but it reads like one: from Limonov’s grim childhood to his desperate, comical, ultimately successful attempts to gain the respect of Russia’s literary intellectual elite; to his immigration to New York, then to Paris; to his return to the motherland. Limonov could be read as a charming picaresque. But it could also be read as a troubling counternarrative of the second half of the twentieth century, one that reveals a violence, an anarchy, a brutality, that the stories we tell ourselves about progress tend to conceal.
 

PRAISE


“[Emmanuel Carrère] is probably the most important French writer you’ve never heard of.” —Robert McCrum, The Observer (London)

“This deft, timely translation of French writer and filmmaker Carrère’s sparkling 2011 biography of Eduard Limonov is an enthralling portrait of a man and his times . . . Carrère’s Limonov never dissolves in a mess of unfathomable contradictions. Instead, he emerges as a mirror through which the vortex of culture and politics in the late-Soviet and New Russian eras is reflected. In this astute, witty account, Limonov has found his ideal biographer. There are few more enjoyable descriptions of Russia today.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“To paraphrase Calvino, Emmanuel Carrèrre’s Limonov is a book about two things: Limonov, and everything else. Equal parts The Quest for Corvo and Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, this virtuosically unclassifiable thing is somehow at once the liveliest of novels, the most illuminating of biographies, and the most consequential of philosophical inquiries—a loopy, hilarious, gut-punching quest after the shifting spirits of war, loyalty, discipline, pity, empathy, scorn, vitality, honor, ego, and, above all, the heroism of decency. All of it ripples outward from one unusual question: What might it mean to try to love someone who was convinced he only wanted to be feared?” —Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction

“Russia, they say, cannot be understood with the mind alone, and neither can her looniest son to date, Edichka Limonov. It also takes a heart, a spleen, a liver, and this beautiful book by France’s greatest writer, Emmanuel Carrère. Get ready for the last real adventure of the twentieth century!” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure


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