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The Commissariat of Enlightenment: A Novel by [Kalfus, Ken]
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Length: 308 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kalfus's two well-received short story collections (Thirst and Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies) set a high standard for his first novel, a sweeping, quasihistorical fiction spanning two tumultuous decades in Russia. From the opening scenes at Leo Tolstoy's deathbed (and the surrounding media circus) to the rise of Stalin, the narrative unfolds with Kalfus's signature mix of carefully researched history, subtle social commentary and leaping, imaginative storytelling. Tolstoy's demise in 1910 presents a career-launching opportunity for a young cinematographer who's beginning to understand the power of film to change or create political reality. This knowledge comes in handy as Russia moves unsteadily from postrevolution chaos toward the Soviet state and its bureaucracies, one of which is the Commissariat of Enlightenment, the powerful agency in charge of propaganda. The cinematographer's fate merges with that of Comrade Astapov, director of the massive Red agitprop campaign. Those who resist the commissariat include a church congregation that refuses to give up its faith, an experimental theater director, and a resilient young woman who makes an abstract, pornographic film in the name of sexual education for women. Unforgettable re-creations of embalmer and scientist Vladimir Vorobev (who mummified Lenin), Joseph Stalin and Countess Tolstoy anchor the plethora of plot developments, which involve many minor-and major-characters with double identities and secret agendas that demand patience and close attention from the reader. Told in supple, witty and gritty prose, the story exhibits all the vigorous intelligence and vision readers have come to expect from Kalfus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

For Comrade Astapov of the Agitprop Section of the Commissariat of Enlightenment, the filmmaker protagonist of this début novel, "life's struggle was not to control events, but the way in which they were remembered." His story begins in 1910, at the press-besieged deathbed of Tolstoy, where his talent for manipulating film to falsify events earns the notice of Stalin. Astapov's distortions are the perfect metaphor for Kalfus's own special effects: Stalin, of course, wasn't there when Tolstoy died. Preoccupied with truth, media, history, and politics, this novel shows its mechanisms proudly. Its stunning conclusion is a postmortem voice-over from the embalmed mind of Lenin, who, still conscious, is able to survey Russia's future, and is eternally irritated by the abuses of his successor.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Product details

  • File Size: 608 KB
  • Print Length: 308 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books (February 19, 2009)
  • Publication Date: February 24, 2009
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001TJ2Y96
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,045,219 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top customer reviews

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on February 26, 2003
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