A History of the Island (Hardcover)
"A masterpiece by one of Europe's finest contemporary novelists." - Rowan Williams
Longlisted for the 2024 Dublin Literary Award
Monks devious and devout - and an age-defying royal pair - chronicle the history of their fictional island in this witty critique of Western civilization and history itself.
Eugene Vodolazkin, internationally acclaimed novelist and scholar of medieval literature, returns with a satirical parable about European and Russian history, the myth of progress, and the futility of war.
This ingenious novel, described by critics as a coda to his bestselling Laurus, is presented as a chronicle of an island from medieval to modern times. The island is not on the map, but it is real beyond doubt. It cannot be found in history books, yet the events are painfully recognizable. The monastic chroniclers dutifully narrate events they witness: quests for power, betrayals, civil wars, pandemics, droughts, invasions, innovations, and revolutions. The entries mostly seem objective, but at least one monk simultaneously drafts and hides a "true" history, to be discovered centuries later. And why has someone snipped out a key prophesy about the island's fate?
These chronicles receive commentary today from an elderly couple who are the island's former rulers. Prince Parfeny and Princess Ksenia are truly extraordinary: they are now 347 years old. Eyewitnesses to much of their island's turbulent history, they offer sharp-eyed observations on the changing flow of time and their people's persistent delusions. Why is the royal couple still alive? Is there a chance that an old prophecy comes to pass and two righteous persons save the island from catastrophe?
In the tradition of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, Julian Barnes's A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, and Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant, Vodolazkin is at his best recasting history, in all its hubris and horror, by finding the humor in its absurdity. For readers with an appetite for more than a dry, rational, scientific view of what motivates, divides, and unites people, A History of the Island conjures a world still suffused with mystical powers.