April 2017 Feature


The Underground

by Hamid Ismailov
translated by Carol Ermakova

Our pick for April is a sweeping novel of identity and place, told one subway stop at a time. From the back:

“I am Moscow’s underground son, the result of one too many nights on the town.” So declares Mbobo, the unforgettable twelve-year-old narrator of this captivating novel by exiled Uzbek author and BBC journalist Hamid Ismailov. Born to a Siberian woman and an African athlete competing in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Mbobo spends his days navigating the subterranean arteries of the Metro and the challenges of being a fatherless, mixed-race boy in the precarious days of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

While paying homage to great Russian authors of the past — Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Gorky, Nabokov, Pushkin — Ismailov emerges as the master of a new kind of Russian writing that probes the sordid post-Soviet present. THE UNDERGROUND is a dizzying and moving tour of the Soviet capital, on the surface and beneath, before its colossal fall.

Mbobo is the kind of character you want to hold close -- kind yet tragic, fragile yet unassailable -- and his voice shines through with the language of a poet. The Underground will stay with you long after you put it down.

Find more from Restless Books at restlessbooks.com.

To purchase The Underground and other great books from this season, visit the Bookstore!