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Novel with Cocaine (European Classics) Paperback – October 28, 1998

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Editorial Reviews


"Fascinating . . . Reminiscent of Nabokov's eccentric precision." --John Updike

"Accomplished writing." 

Publishers Weekly

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian

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Product Details

  • Series: European Classics
  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1 edition (October 28, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810117096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810117099
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J from NY VINE VOICE on June 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
This strange little tale of a young man's descent into cocaine addiction is less interesting for it's portrayal of the youthful anti-hero's chemical use as his astounding philosophical insights. Vadim does not actually use cocaine until the end of the novel ('the beginning of the end', as it were) and the novel is mostly composed of his Dostoevskian self loathing and inability to relate to his peers on any level. It is almost an exercise in depressive solipsism; while Vadim's peers play a large role in the novel his inner world is so tortured and miles apart from them that the author might as well have portrayed him as a complete misanthrope. In the opening we get a feel for where his moral compass is swinging; he gives a venereal disease to a young woman in full cognizance of what he is doing. He agonizes over it, but this does not prevent him from actually doing it. The most catching scenes in the novel are when his classmates, thrown into a kind of cocaine induced revolt against the orthodoxy of the school they attend, verbally attack priests and teachers. Burkewitz, a character we encounter later in the book, gives a particularly interesting speech to the headmaster priest of the school in the middle of a sermon. There are thoroughly disturbing scenes; Vadim strikes his mother, steals from her, all the while recognizing her basic goodness and frail attempts to relate to him. Vadim wants to consider himself exceptional, a unique student and son, and at the same time loathes himself. Many of his self evaluations strike a schizoid note. His entrance into the world of cocaine use is preceded by his rejection of a girl with whom he was too fearful to consummate his relationship. Like everyone else, she has a false image of him and rejects him entirely when he fails to live up to it.Read more ›
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 1996
Format: Paperback
Losing his "nasal virginity" in an adventure into the wonders and horrors
of cocaine addiction, the central character finds his answer to insecurity and
social ineptitude in a potent white powder as his peer in The Overcoat seeks the
same comfort in a dark, tattered garment.

If the pseudonym doesn't give it away, this anonymous author provides another dim glance into
nineteenth century St. Petersberg that seems a brushstroke within the same portrait alongside those by Gogol and Dostoevsky. Imagine
the Underground Man not tormenting his maid, but out in the streets snorting cocaine, searching
for a female companion.

Novel with Cocaine is not essential reading, but it is another worthwhile
glimpse at the literary products of desperate and dark nineteenth century St. Petersberg.
Glorification of drug use is a problem in the late twentieth century. Novel with Cocaine will
force you to think again with grave reluctance that neither McInerney nor Ellis have been
able to posit in the minds of their readers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Flippy on December 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is the novel I needed.

There is a depth of honesty here that is both raw and extremely sensitive. Vadim Maslennikov's narration begins in school, focusing on the rise of a fellow student, Burkewitz. The narrator is ashamed of his mother and her rags and attempts to live in a world distant from his background. Throughout the course of the novel, from school to a marred love affair to losing his 'nasal virginity' (i.e. taking cocaine), Vadim explores the extremes of his personality, philosophizing, offering the reader insights into his and the human condition.

If you enjoy Dostoevsky, Hamsun and Rimbaud, this book is a must. The prose is poetic, scintillating at times, offering a beautiful panorama of the Russian world at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Revolution is in the muted background but the pain of war, the sense of isolation and loneliness all persist in the forefront. Vadim is like the narrators of 'Notes from the Underground', 'Hunger' and 'The Drunken Boat' - alive, swelling with life, longings and ravenous emotions. I read it in a day and know I'll probably have to read it again because there are wondrous layers to this book. These are the books that feel so close to life, to the trembling highs and lows we experience in youth and early adulthood. The author remains unknown but the legacy of this book deserves a renowned place amongst the greater cannon of writers of this genre. It looks forward to J.D. Salinger and Bret Easton Ellis. I highly recommend this novel - it is an experience.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Oz du Soleil on August 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Having already been a fan of Dostoevsky & Tolstoy, it was Charles Bukowski who pointed me back to the Russians as being the only producers of literature that's worth reading. "A Novel with Cocaine" is a fine example of a novel that has something worthwhile on its pages.
Might we say that it's existentialist in it thinking? The individual caught in a universe that really doesn't give a damn about the individual... and the individual's struggle to find something to do, and a place to fit.
Camus and Sartre are puny little runts compared to Ageyev! Ageyev gives us the moment-to-moment REAL stuff that actually matters. One character goes up in front of his high school math classs to work out a problem... he sneezes and boogers are hanging out of his face while the class laughs. How does he deal with this?
Ageyev keeps his work as something regular folks can identify with. Not all of his situations deal with boogers (or things just as gross), but they're all common enough to keep a reader's interest without drawing the reader into pompous brain-teasers that few of us can access.
Conversely, Camus and Sartre take us into a high-minded realm which is interesting, but when will I ever have to think about whether or not to kill a wheelchair-bound guy because he doesn't have the nerve to do it himself? How many of our lives are impacted by such decisions?
Ageyev is much more interesting. He's a great writer. He's got a great sense of humor and he's FIRMLY rooted in common existence.
Though the book is titled "A Novel with Cocaine," sure there's a great deal about the main characters travels through the underworld of drugs and drug people and the activities between them. But, I think that this is more of a way for the writer to access his more interesting ideas--as opposed to writing a book that's really about cocaine.
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