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Paranoia: A Novel Paperback – March 31, 2013
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Emerging from the authoritarian nation of Belarus and written originally in Russian by a now-exiled novelist and activist, Paranoia is a satire of and attack on that very thinly disguised regime. In limning a society in which the most minute behavior is investigated and reported upon by the authorities, Martinovich mixes narrative with governmental “reports.” Inside the framework of a repressive society is a romance between the writer Anatoly and his beloved Elisaveta. The surveillance files describing their most intimate actions and bedroom conversations are given in deadpan, Soviet-style bureaucratese while what is actually being described is basically a love affair. It is Martinovich’s contribution that he parallels the commonplace but painful paranoia of love (i.e., jealousy) and the frighteningly appropriate paranoia of life in a harsh dictatorship. If the novel is at times strained, Martinovich can be excused a heavy hand in dealing with a regime that rules with an iron fist. Scholarly prefatory material provides needed context. --Mark Levine
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Top Customer Reviews
It is too bad the the page scarcely mentions anything about the author himself. Besides being a writer, he is a journalist and a professor. Also, it is interesting that in his country of origin, when a new book of his goes into print, it is sold out almost right away.
This novel is a love tragedy. But, since it takes place in totalitarian Belarus (Martinovich’s home is not mentioned, but that’s where we are), it’s really a bizarre love triangle, between the protagonist Anatoly, a writer, Elisaveta, a woman whom Anatoly meets in a café, and the State, which, given its jealous totalitarian-ness, must monitor even the most mundane and intimate moments of the couple’s lives.
The story’s narrative alternates with intelligence reports or transcripts that are pitch perfect in their dry reportage, and on the whole the novel is as hilarious a send up of modern Belorussian tyranny as one can expect. Why is probably why the book was banned upon its release and Martinovich is now living in exile.
[As reviewed in Russian Life magazine.]