"I am Moscow’s underground son," says young Mbobo, introducing himself. "The result of one too many nights on the town."
The story of a half-African, half-Siberian child growing up in the fast-changing Moscow of the 1980s, The Underground has been called one of the "ten best Russian novels of the 21st Century," and "a master class in how to write the Russian postmodern novel" (Continent Magazine). In this subtle and atmospheric novel, exiled Uzbek author and BBC journalist Hamid Ismailov provides a tour of the Soviet capital, on the surface and beneath, in the years before the fall. Though deeply engaged with great Russian authors of the past—Dostoyevsky, Turgenyev, Gorky, Nabokov, and above all, Pushkin—Ismailov is an emerging master of a new kind of Russian writing that revels in the sordid reality and diverse composition of the country today.
"Ismailov belongs to the tradition of Russian satirical novelists, from Gogol to Bulgakov and Platonov."
"Hamid Ismailov has the capacity of Salman Rushdie at his best to show the grotesque realization of history on the ground."
"The dream of grandeur is more than justified by the artfulness of The Underground, which...create[s] the motifs of blackness, subterranean movement, and isolation that are the novel’s strongest effects."
"The characters in The Underground are passionate residents of Moscow, with ancestry in Central Asia, Siberia, and Africa, as well as autochthonous natives to this central city of the USSR. Illuminated by Ismailov’s poetic prose, their hopes and despairs are beautifully evoked through the inner monologue of Mbobo. As the reader bears witness to his life, love, and perishing, the language shifts from that of a four-year-old to that of a young man in his twenties. The misunderstandings of childhood develop into worldviews and deserted conclusions."
—F News Magazine
About the Author
Hamid Ismailov is an Uzbek journalist and writer who was forced to flee Uzbekistan in 1992 for the United Kingdom, where he now works for the BBC World Service. His works are still banned in Uzbekistan. His writing has been published in Uzbek, Russian, French, German, Turkish and other languages. His books of poetry include Sad (Garden) (1987), and Pustynya (Desert) (1988). His books of visual poetry include Post Faustum (1990) and Kniga Otsutstvi (1992). He is the author of the novels Sobranie Utonchyonnyh (1988), Le Vagabond Flamboyant (1993), and many others. He has translated Russian and Western classics into Uzbek, and Uzbek and Persian classics into Russian and several Western languages. Ismailov's novel The Railway, originally written before he left Uzbekistan, was published in 2006 in an English translation by Robert Chandler; a Russian edition was published in Moscow in 1997. A Poet and Bin-Laden, translated by Andrew Bromfield, was published in September 2012.
Carol Ermakova studied German and Russian language and literature and holds an MA in translation from Bath University. She first visited Russia in 1991. More recently, Carol spent two years in Moscow working as a teacher and translator. Carol currently lives in the North Pennines and works as a freelance translator.