Variable Values

Bulat Khanov
Shortlisted for the National Bestseller Award 2020;

«Variable Values» seals the atmosphere of the present into a test tube for further examination.

Roman, a cum laude graduate of Moscow State University with a degree in philology, boards a train from Moscow to Kazan. He is on a secret mission, which we will only find out about at the very end. Roman, the protagonist of Inconstant Level, first believes that everything is going quite smoothly.

His students are about the same as in the novel by Alexey Ivanov, set twenty years ago, but initially Roman takes on the challenge quite boldly and energetically. His life becomes quite cozy. We can hardly notice the moment when his cozy existence starts turning into hell. Perhaps it all begins with the speeches of his superiors. Or perhaps it all starts when Roman gets his first paycheck and realizes that he has to look for discounts in grocery stores. Then he finds himself out of money and can’t afford any groceries at all, let alone pay his rent. Hell oozes into his life in microscopic doses. And then Roman, a good guy overall, finds himself yelling at his students, and they become more and more unbearable: dumb, rude, and always doing something else on their gadgets.

In the end, Roman chooses to quit his job. He did not gain anything either, and only got bored and tired. But in fact, he did learn a lot. This was a sociological experiment — the goal was to find out how long a young teacher could stay in an ordinary Russian school with its low salaries, load of useless and unpaid assignments and constant pressure from the part of students’ parents.

Is this book about modern schools, or just about life where there is increasingly less oxygen to breathe, as if someone has been pumping the air out until everyone suffocates, slowly but surely? It’s most likely the latter, and we have already learned to live with just a bare minimum of oxygen in the air.

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