Once a rapist always a rapist? It seems that the narrator is so determined not only to shock his daughter, to whom this book is a confession, but also himself. Left alone with his brother’s ex-wife, who he has coveted all his adult life he ends up raping her. That act leads to her suicide and it also pretty well puts a cap on a fateful life that has been destroyed by the state. The narrator might have outlived his brother, sister and his ex-sister-in-law but he is a dead man walking in a living hell of memories and the brutality of Russia.
A constant thread that pops up throughout the book is the episode of the school that was under siege with Chechen gunmen holding hundreds of school children hostage. This is seen as something that ended in a brutal way that reveals the underlying hatred the state has for its own people. But also there are suggestions it is all contrived by the state to fuel the paranoia about enemies within.
Presumably that story will be played out to climax with the last few moments of the narrator who seems to be nearing the end. He holds onto a letter that he promised to read before he died – presumably from his brother or the woman he raped – but in terms of redemption it is hard to see where any could come from – surely the metaphor for the Soviet system.
Last chunk tomorrow…