Sin: The Russia You Never Knew

Book Review by: Damira Davletyarova 

Zahar Prilepin’s  book Sin is a collection of short stories written in non-chronological order. Yet, by the end, they merge into a full complex picture, giving the novel its unique form. The main character of the stories is Zahar, who incidentally, has the same name as the author. Zahar lives in the post-Soviet Russia – in a broken country, one involved in the war with Chechnya and struggling to keep its unity. People are impoverished, unemployed and angry.

Amid chaos, instead of complaining or joining criminals, Zahar keeps his human dignity and integrity. He enjoys what he has and life as it is. He loves and is being loved. For Zahar, under the veil of male toughness and physical strength, there is also a caring and tender heart.

Sin builds Zahar’s compassion right from the beginning. In the first chapter, for instance, Zahar takes out the last remaining egg, some milk from the empty fridge, finds flour in the kitchen cabinet and makes pancakes in order to feed four abandoned puppies that live outside of his apartment.

In the various stories throughout the book, readers will journey with Zahar from his childhood to his eventual adulthood, which helps to both shape the character and endear him  to his readers. In the last story, however, Prilepin’s character is unable to escape grim reality, and sadly he embarks on a journey as a soldier in the Chechen war.

The book has shaken the Russian literary world with a bold and honest description of post-communist Russia’s past, becoming a national bestseller. Sin, has already earned multiple literary awards. This April, Canadians will be able to discover the Russia that they never knew existed.

Prilepin is a renowned Russian author, a publisher, a journalist and a political activist. In the past, he served as a soldier in the Russian Special Forces in the anti-terror campaign in Chechnya. Prilepin is happily married and a father of three sons. He lives in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

Sin is now available on Amazon; the Russian version of the book can be ordered from the author’s website  at zaharprilepin.r