Translated by Susanne Fusso
Sergey Gandlevsky's 2002 novel Illegible has a double time focus, centering on the immediate experiences of Lev Krivorotov, a twenty-year-old poet living in Moscow in the 1970s, as well as his retrospective meditations thirty years later after most of his hopes have foundered. As the story begins, Lev is involved in a tortured affair with an older woman and consumed by envy of his more privileged friend and fellow beginner poet Nikita, one of the children of high Soviet functionaries who were known as "golden youth."
In both narratives, Krivorotov recounts with regret and self-castigation the failure of a double infatuation, his erotic love for the young student Anya and his artistic love for the poet Viktor Chigrashov. When this double infatuation becomes a romantic triangle, the consequences are tragic.
In Illegible, as in his poems, Gandlevsky gives us unparalleled access to the atmosphere of the city of Moscow and the ethos of the late Soviet and post-Soviet era, while at the same time demonstrating the universality of human emotion.