PARADISE ON EARTH

Sukhbat Aflatuni
320 pages;
2019;
hardcover;
Short-listed
for the Big Book
Award 2019;

Two ordinary women live next door in a typical five-storey block.

Plyusha (Paulina) is an unremarkable, undistinguished, plump and plain museum worker; her mother dies; her would-be-husband husband abandons her.

Natalie is an ex textile maker, ex-businesswoman, ex-sportswoman, active and very alive... Her unloved husband dies, their son goes to study in Poland.

What remains for these two women? Only friendship.

But friendship turns out to be a complicated thing: they are way too different. Natalie tries to «shake» and dispel Plusha all the time, to make her feel the taste of life, which leads to their breakup in the end...

And the place of residence far from being idyll: the windows of the block overlook the field where the Poles were executed in the late thirties.

The main events of narration unfold — though not directly — around this field. Plusha is half Polish; Natalie had a Polish husband. For some reason, men in the block either die or run away.

The field is about to become a construction site, but the construction, barely having started, stops. Catholic and Orthodox parishes are fighting for the field.

Among those executed by shooting there believed to be an Orthodox priest Thomas Golembovsky, a Polish man who had adopted Orthodoxy and who is about to be canonized.

Plusha, working in the city museum of repressions, is engaged in his manuscripts. These manuscripts, especially «The Children’s Gospel» (where all the roles are played by children) written by Father Thomas at the beginning of the thirties, constitute the second «layer» of the novel.

There are two other «layers». One — the dates of a girl and the Death: Plusha’s graduate thesis was devoted to a painting «A Girl and the Death», and it seems to enter her mind so deeply, it continued to live there, branching out.

Another «layer» — the story of the fall and exile from heaven (which gave the title to the novel): the play about Adam and Eve is staged by the youth theater at the Polish cultural center, and as well as the story with «A Girl and the Death», the plot of the play begins to live its own life...

In the end, Plyusha founds herself alone. Natalie dies; the Director of the museum is seeking permission to start excavations on the field, but all of a sudden he strangely disappears.

But life suddenly turns its bright side to Plusha: she gets permission to adopt a girl from an orphanage, and excavations begin on the field...

About the author:

Sukhbat Aflatuni (pen name of Eugene Abdullaev) is a poet, prose writer and translator. Born in 1971 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), he spent his childhood in Namangan. In 1993 he graduated from the Philosophy Department of Tashkent State University.

In 1999, together with poets Sandjar Yanyshev and Vadim Muratkhanov, he founded «Tashkent Poetry School» who contributed to the publication of the anthology of contemporary Russian literature in Uzbekistan «The Small Silk Road». (1999 — 2004) and Tashkent Poetry Festival (2001 — 2006).

Poems and prose by Sukhbat Aflatuni were published in literary journals of Uzbekistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, USA, etc.; translated into French, Polish and Korean.

His translations of English, Japanese, Uzbek, Tatar and Belarusian poetry were published in literary journals («Star», «New World», etc.) and anthologies. He translated the novels «People Walking in the Moonbeam» by the classic of modern Uzbek prose Tagai Murad (RIPOL Classic, 2018).

The novel «Clay letters, floating apples» by Sukhbat Aflatuni was staged in 2008 by the Tashkent theatre «Ilkhom».

He is the author of three poetry collections and five novels.

Laureate of the " Oktyabr" magazine literary prize (2004, 2006, 2015), «Russian Award» (2005), «Triumph» incentive award (2006).

He is the finalist of The Russian Booker Award and Yasnaya Polyana Prize (2016).

He was a member of the jury of «The Russian Booker», «The Russian Prize», etc. Sukhbat Aflatuni lives in Tashkent, works as editor-in-chief of the journal «East Above».

Praise:

This is a writer who will surprise us yet in a good way. He is a great at writing Russian novels.
Eugene Vodolazkin, an author of international bestsellers «Laurus», «The Aviator»

Aristocratic prose of such splendor, nobility has long been awaited.
Valentin Kurbatov, literary critic

The creative tool of Sukhbat Aflatuni — minimum of means and accuracy. The accuracy of the image, the accuracy of the wording, the detail, which is accurate and appropriate in the right phrase and thus unforgettable in its sharpness.
Alexander Etoev, literary critic

Aflatuni’s prose has a strong southern gaze that examines the smallest details in the bright, still light of the day.
Maria Galina, writer, critic

For me, Sukhbat Aflatuni has become one of the most important reading discoveries of recent times.
Vladislav Tolstov, literary critic

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