In the year 2017 in Russia, poets and writers are obsolete, class distinctions are painfully sharp, and spirits intervene in the lives of humans from their home high in the mythical Riphean Mountains. Professor Anfilogov, a wealthy and emotionless man, sets out an expedition to unearth priceless rubies that no one else has been able to locate. Young Krylov, a talented gem cutter whom Anfilogov had taken under his wing, is seeing off his mentor at the train station when he is drawn to a mysterious stranger who calls herself Tanya. A scandalous affair ensues, but trouble arises in the shape of Krylov's ex-wife Tamara and a spy who appears at the lovers' every rendezvous. As events unfold, Krylov begins to learn more than he bargained for about the women in his life and realises why he recognises the spy from somewhere deep within his past. Meanwhile, Anfilogov's expedition reveals ugly truths about man's disregard for nature and the disasters stemming from insatiable greed.
Olga Slavnikova won the Russian Booker Prize in 2006 for '2017'. She lives in Moscow. Marian Schwartz is a prize-winning translator of Russian fiction, history, biography, criticism, and fine art.