The definitive English language translation of the internationally bestselling Russian novel—a brilliant dark fantasy with "the potential to be a modern classic" (Lev Grossman), combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.
Our life is brief . . .
While vacationing at the beach with her mother, Sasha Samokhina meets the mysterious Farit Kozhennikov under the most peculiar circumstances. The teenage girl is powerless to refuse when this strange and unusual man with an air of the sinister directs her to perform a task with potentially scandalous consequences. He rewards her effort with a strange golden coin.
As the days progress, Sasha carries out other acts for which she receives more coins from Kozhennikov. As summer ends, her domineering mentor directs her to move to a remote village and use her gold to enter the Institute of Special Technologies. Though she does not want to go to this unknown town or school, she also feels it’s the only place she should be. Against her mother’s wishes, Sasha leaves behind all that is familiar and begins her education.
As she quickly discovers, the institute’s "special technologies" are unlike anything she has ever encountered. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, their families pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.
A complex blend of adventure, magic, science, and philosophy that probes the mysteries of existence, filtered through a distinct Russian sensibility, this astonishing work of speculative fiction—brilliantly translated by Julia Meitov Hersey—is reminiscent of modern classics such as Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Max Barry’s Lexicon, and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, but will transport them to a place far beyond those fantastical worlds.
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 5.70(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Marina And Sergey Dyachenko, a former actress and a former psychiatrist, are the coauthors of twenty-eight novels and numerous short stories and screenplays. They were born in Ukraine, lived in Russia, and now live in the United States. Their books have been translated into several foreign languages and awarded multiple literary and film prizes, including the 2005 Eurocon award for Best Author. They live in Marina Del Rey, California.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I picked up "Vita Nostra" largely out of curiosity. I'd never heard of the authors before, but I'm always up for some Russian literature in translation, and the fact that it was contemporary fantasy made it even more intriguing. But when diving into these things, you never know what you're going to get. And indeed, I was in for a wild ride. The authors, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, write what they call "M-realism." What "M-realism" is the authors have declined to clarify, although a quick Google search does turn up the theory, propounded by N. Tennant, that "M-realism is the idea that one rejects bivalence and assents to the recognition-transcendent requirement." So there you have it. Anyway, "Vita Nostra" occupies a fascinating liminal literary space between fantasy and hard sci-fi, and between your typical urban/academy fantasy and literary fiction. The main character, Sasha Samokhina, is a teenager who turns out to have an amazing, massive, magical gift. What that magical gift is, though, is not revealed, not even to her, until the end of the book. Instead, she's coerced into completing a series of nonsensical tasks, and then forced into enrolling in a peculiar institute in a small provincial town. Once there, she is given more nonsensical and infuriating tasks, while being bullied and threatened by her instructors. Always a straight-A student, Sasha becomes a manic workaholic, until the bizarre assignments start to become clear to her, and she begins to see the larger pattern of which she is a part. At which point she begins making changes to herself and the world around her--changes that could have tragic consequences for all concerned. Readers of academy fantasy (e.g., "Vampire Academy") will recognize many familiar elements in "Vita Nostra." It even has a handsome PT instructor named Dima whom all the girls have a crush on, just like "Vampire Academy." But while "Vita Nostra" has a compelling plot that will drag you along with it whether you want it to or not, it is decidedly metaphysical and metaliterary fair compared with its YA brethren. Although the basic storyline, of an adolescent girl who gets pulled into a magical school and goes through a coming-of-age process there, both intellectually and romantically, is the same, "Vita Nostra" has a lot less wish fulfillment and a lot more meditation on things like the coercive nature of education and the very makeup of reality itself. The translation must have been quite a challenge, given the theoretical nature of its underlying themes, as well as the word play involved in some of the key scenes (particular credit should go to the interplay between "verb" and "reverberate" in the translation). It reads very smoothly, though, preserving the essential foreignness of the topic while translating it into colloquial, readable English. "Vita Nostra" is a compelling read, but it's not light reading. If you're looking for "Vampire Academy 2," this may not be it. But if you're interested in reading some very smart, very thought-provoking contemporary fantasy/sci fi in translation, I highly recommend it.
An amazing book, and i cant say much more without spoilers
Brilliant writing ruined by blasphemous ending "twist."
Take the world as you know it and turn it upside down. Humans and words are connected in a profound way in this amazing novel! Having just finished it, my mind still reeling from the implications in this book. Sacha, the main character, gets chosen to attend a special school (which was not easy). When she arrives she embarks on an education that challenges her entire being, she will become something she never dreamed. Read it!