The Commissariat of Enlightenment

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9780060501365: The Commissariat of Enlightenment

A brilliant and richly imagined first novel about a young Russian filmmaker who discovers that in the period between the death of Tolstoy and the death of Lenin is born the science of propaganda. Ken Kalfus's mesmerising first novel is about two events that become milestones in the history of the modern media: the death of Tolstoy and the murder of Lenin. One yound filmmaker was there. The story begins in 1910, as Leo Tolstoy lies dying in Astapovo, a railway station in provincial Russia. Members of the press from around the world have descended upon this sleepy hamlet to record his passing for a public suddenly ravenous for celebrity news. Cinema is the newcomer, and Nikolai Gribshin arrives to capture the extraordinary scene and learn how to wield his camera as a political tool. At this historic moment, he comes across two men - the scientist, Professor Vorobev, and the revolutionist, Joseph Stalin - who have radical, mysterious plans for the future. Soon they will accompany him on a long, cold march through an era of brutality and absurdity, as science struggles with superstition. Brimming with intellect, humour, and rich, inventive storytelling, THE COMMISSARIAT OF ENLIGHTENMENT is a novel of ideas that brilliantly evokes the tragi-comic world of revolutionary Russia as well as the birth of today's image-based society.

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Product Description:

Russia, 1910. Leo Tolstoy lies dying in Astapovo, a remote railway station. Members of the press from around the world have descended upon this sleepy hamlet to record his passing for a public suddenly ravenous for celebrity news. They have been joined by a film company whose cinematographer, Nikolai Gribshin, is capturing the extraordinary scene and learning how to wield his camera as a political tool. At this historic moment he comes across two men -- the scientist, Professor Vorobev, and the revolutionist, Joseph Stalin -- who have radical, mysterious plans for the future. Soon they will accompany him on a long, cold march through an era of brutality and absurdity. The Commissariat of Enlightenment is a mesmerizing novel of ideas that brilliantly links the tragedy and comedy of the Russian Revolution with the global empire of images that occupies our imaginations today.

Review:

"Kalfus's book is absorbing, intelligent, witty and wry...A fable that tells the story of the 20th century."--London Times

"Unforgettable...the story exhibits all the vigorous intelligence and vision readers have come to expect from Kalfus."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Glitteringly original. . . . An intricate, harrowing, and, yes, dangerous first novel that sets out to capture the dawn of the 20th century in Bolshevik Russia."--Esquire

"Brilliant ... Inventive ... Gogol is probably tearing his hair out, wishing he'd dreamed this up."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Inventive, unusual, humorous, ... deeply intelligent, The Commissariat of Enlightenment beautifully illuminates the hazardous powers of image, icon, and relic."--Andrea Barrett

"Kalfus is an ironist in the best late-modern Central European style: wry, humane, precise, and beautifully smitten with ideas."--Jonathan Franzen

Inventive, unusual, humorous, ... deeply intelligent, The Commissariat of Enlightenment beautifully illuminates the hazardous powers of image, icon, and relic. --Andrea Barrett"

Brilliant ... Inventive ... Gogol is probably tearing his hair out, wishing he d dreamed this up. --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"

Kalfus is an ironist in the best late-modern Central European style: wry, humane, precise, and beautifully smitten with ideas. --Jonathan Franzen"

Unforgettable...the story exhibits all the vigorous intelligence and vision readers have come to expect from Kalfus. --Publishers Weekly (starred review)"

Glitteringly original. . . . An intricate, harrowing, and, yes, dangerous first novel that sets out to capture the dawn of the 20th century in Bolshevik Russia. --Esquire"

Kalfus s book is absorbing, intelligent, witty and wry...A fable that tells the story of the 20th century. --London Times"

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