The year is 1942, the setting: a city in the Tver region. Gelik, a very young lieutenant, and a girl named Ina were taken hostage by an insane divisional commander. By some miracle they managed to escape, but many years later, Gelik, during a conversation with a friend, suddenly realizes that the divisional commander’s madness was nothing but play-acting: he had foreseen that all attempts to escape from the war would be seen as desertion – all, that is, except raving madness and affront (tearing into battle and killing everyone in your path).
2008. Ina, now a very elderly woman, falls victim to a telephone prankster who begins terrorising her. Gradually his daily calls become a kind of drug on which she depends. She discovers that he knows something about her life, and the remarks he makes evoke distant memories: there was a time, long ago, when she was a reporter, and she seems to recall travelling to Afghanistan, where she fell in love. In her mind, the love she once knew has not retained a specific form and features, but it still responds to her memories with a furious force.
The protagonists survived the war and are rescued from captivity. They are not able, however, to leave the experiences of the war behind them and move on with their lives. The novel explores what happens once the conflict is over, as they learn to live without the war, with all their loves, passions and weaknesses.
A handful of families, several generations, more than a few wars. Moscow, Kabul, Barcelona. Anna Nemzer announces herself on the literary scene boldly and loudly with this debut novel about the insane, unspeakable nature of war, about human fears, treachery, lies, fateful coincidences and destinies during warfare, when there is no room left for love.
"In a country that has spent decades fighting against memory, a powerful imagination is required to conjure the past. Anna Nemzer tackles the most mythologized and least imaginable parts of the past: war. More than that, she dares to imagine characters that have been written out of Soviet and Russian history entirely: neither victors nor victims but the living casualties of war. The result is powerful, haunting, and essential for the work of memory to begin in her culture." Masha Gessen
Anna Nemzer was born in Moscow and graduated from the Historical and Philological faculty of the Russian State University for the Humanities. She worked as a journalist and an editor for the magazines ‘Snob,’ ‘Russian Reporter’ and ‘Around the World.’ She has also worked for the TV channel ‘Kultura.’ Since 2008, Nemzer has been the editor-in-chief of the magazine ‘Snob’. In 2009, Nemzer wrote the first part of the novel ‘Prisoner. It is not true’, dedicated to the memory of the generation affected by war. ‘Prisoner’ was published in the journal ‘Znamia’ and shortlisted for the Belkin Prize. In 2011, she finished the second part of the novel. The novel ‘Prisoner’ is her debut in prose.