Born in Irkutsk in 1965, Andrei Gelasimov studied foreign languages at Yakutsk State University and directing at Moscow Theater Institute. He became an overnight literary sensation in Russia in 2001 when his story A Tender Age, which he published on the Internet, was awarded a prize for the best debut. It went on to garner the Apollon Grigorev and Belkin Prizes, and his novels have regularly enjoyed critical and popular success in Russia and throughout Europe. Rachel is his fourth novel to be published in English, following Thirst, The Lying Year, and Gods of the Steppe, winner of Russia's National Bestseller Prize in 2009 and praised by Bookslut as "a very rich, good book." Gelasimov adapted Thirst for the screen, and the film, directed by Dmitriy Tyurin, won first prize in the Moscow Premiere Screenings at the Moscow International Film Festival and the Jury Prize at the Sochi Open Russian Film Festival.
The seeming simplicity of Gelasimov's style can be attributed to his great gift, for which there is no counterpart in Russian literature. He could be called the Russian Salinger. Just like Salinger's heroes, his are mainly children or young people, often at the age at which the painful metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood takes place. Gelasimov also understands how to sketch a psychological portrait of his characters with only a situation, or a short, often comic dialogue.
Gelasimov's heroes are alone, almost as if they were encased in a cocoon. Gelasimov is not afraid to permit them an opportunity to be happy, but he does it without becoming banal. It is not the "System" that is at fault for our suffering. People cause other people to suffer, and people can make it right again. Gelasimov always keeps completely to the everyday, does not offer a commentary, and leaves room for multiple truths. If there is a moral, then he has hidden it in his works like contraband, which readers hungrily seek and discover.
Photo copyright Lutz Durstoff