Zakhar Prilepin: Обитель (The Monastery)

The latest addition to my website is Zakhar Prilepin‘s Обитель (The Monastery). This novel tells the story of Artiom Gorianov who is a prisoner in the 1920s in the remote Solovki prison camp. Initially we do not know why he is there but we later learn that he is not a political prisoner but has murdered his father. This very long novel tells his story as well as those of other inmates and how they survive or, in quite a few cases, do not survive. There is much cruelty, particularly from the inmates who are made guards. The prisoners have to work and the work can be hard and it can get very cold. However, there are also arbitrary punishments and even killings. Artiom manages to have an affair with the commandant’s girlfriend and she is able to protect him some of the time but his big mouth and cockiness often get him into trouble. It is a superb but very long novel and Prilepin does not hold back on any of the gory details.

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