Brexit, Sex-it, Trump-it, Dumb-it, Leak-it, Hack-it, Bomb-it: 2016 is almost over but the impact of this year’s political events will reverberate around the globe for decades. But did any of these events really happen? If we are to believe the things reported by the press, we are not necessarily to believe any of them did, or at least, not in the way the press said they did. For it appears, the press tells us, and therefore again, it might not be the case, that we have entered an age of Post-Truth. The best books I read this year – bonkers, genius, stimulating and written long before 2016 – each in their own way acts as a firm reminder of how post-truth is best served in the realm of fiction.
Alexievich’s original method unearths these previously unchartered personal histories and maps them on a broad canvas. In her Nobel Lecture of 2015 she said of this method, ‘I am often told, even now, that what I write isn’t literature, it’s a document. What is literature today? Who can answer that question? We live faster than ever before. Content ruptures form. Breaks and changes it . . . There are no borders between fact and fabrication, one flows into the other.’
Alcohol-sodden, at turns angry, maudlin, gentle, poignant, funny, sloshed out and hung-over, the narrator’s intoxicated state (the biographical overlap between narrator and author are uncanny) doesn’t get in the way of a true literary tour-de-force. It is strewn with quotations and allusions to history, literature, politics, philosophy and scripture. It even includes a ‘scientific’ analysis of the drunken hiccup. ‘What’s vodka got to do with it?’ he snaps at one point, at everyone and no one in particular, particularly at the reader. Vodka has everything to do with it: the narrator is in such a tanked-up state that the reader can never be quite sure he is telling the truth. And the non-truth-truthful world this alcohol infested Christ-figure on the altar of truth inhabits is dark, hilarious and utterly heartbreaking. Reality dances just beyond his grasp. Will he reach his girlfriend and son in Petushki? The final lines of Moscow Stations are the most intellectually bewildering and moving I have read in years.
Photograph © Mypouss