In a world a few decades from now, Russia has lost its influence and descended into a farcical civil war. With an extreme right-wing cult in power, racial tensions have divided the country into the Varangians - those who consider themselves to be the original Aryan settlers of Russia - and the Khazars, the liberals and Jews driven out of Moscow by recent events. Morale has reached an all-time low as the brutality and pointlessness of the situation is becoming more and more apparent: what is left of the fighting now revolves around capturing and recapturing Degunino, a seemingly magical village with an abundance of pies, vodka and accommodating womenfolk. But there is also a third people - timid, itinerant and on the brink of extinction - who lay claim to Degunino and Russia as their homeland. Against this rich backdrop of events, "Living Souls" follows the lives of four couples struggling to escape the chaos and stupidity of the war around them: a teenage girl who adopts a homeless man, a poet turned general separated from his lover, a provincial governor in love with one of the natives, and a legendary military commander who is sleeping with the enemy.
A wide-ranging work dealing with the ideas of language, power and national identity, "Living Souls" is a comic and thought-provoking novel with tremendous relevance to the present day.
Dmitry Bykov is the author of five novels, a biography of Pasternak, winner of the 2007 'Big Book' Prize and the National Bestseller Prize, two collections of short stories, two volumes of essays and eight collection of poetry. He writes for various literary publications, hosts a weekly radio show and appears regularly on Russian television.