A raw, startling, genre-defying novel about youth, sex, art and love in modern-day St Petersburg
Passionate, talented, headstrong and ambitious, Masha takes the European film scene by storm, escaping her small provincial town to become the most daring, avant-garde auteur of her generation. Taking inspiration from her personal life as well as the artists and poets she meets on the streets of St Petersburg, Masha courageously puts herself on the line by transforming her own experiences into art. But as painful memories of her childhood start to resurface, she is forced to confront her demons – the betrayals, the cruelties – in this psychologically compelling debut from one of Russia’s most exciting young writers.
‘Sketching Masha, Saint Petersburg, and the Russian arts scene with lively and impressionistic detail, Levental swirls in fragmentary conversations, bits of internal monologue, and more than a few knowing references to the Russian literary canon to create a sophisticated twist on a bildungsroman that raises more questions than it answers and showcases the author’s own considerable literary talent.'
‘A very fun book, one most American readers will readily recognize and relate to, though it will uncomfortably force that same reader outside the tedious ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps via New York City’ narrative that dominates their own literature. We are all the same. We are all so very and impossibly different. It can be a bitter pill to swallow’
– Words Without Borders
‘Masha Regina is ... populated with cultural quotations from The Iliad to Star Wars, Gogol to The Godfather, fairy tales to porn sites, Don Quixote to computer games. Levantal’s work returns regularly to the “Dostoevskian spirit”, even as it spans both Shakespearean allusions and social media (“nothing drives people apart like daily status updates”).... In her acknowledgements, translator Lisa Hayden comments on these references “woven into the novel.” Her English version of this complex tapestry is, as ever, a delight, tackling multiple challenges from colloquialisms (“a drunk chick is not in charge of her twat”) to tongue twisters (“by the burbling river bank we bumblingly bagged a burbot”). Hayden’s thoughtful brilliance in this book ... helps illuminate contemporary Russian literature for Anglophone readers....The novel triumphs through imagery.’
– Russia Beyond the Headlines
‘Masha Regina is the story of a successful artist, and what she sacrifices for her art, and even if variations of this story-arc are overly familiar, Levental’s approach makes for a striking personal portrait …. A compelling artist-portrait and character study.’
– The Complete Review
‘The novel works on several levels at once and is replete with references from Pushkin to Gogol, Tom Stoppard to Star Wars and even Hegel. It's a cerebral work that urges its readers to consider the limits of ambition, the price of making art…This genre-defying novel takes on the limits of talent and ambition, fate and art in contemporary Europe.’
‘Brilliant... this is a story about art and the cost one has to pay to become an internationally recognised film director.’
– Galina Yuzefovich
‘A spectacularly mature, fine and merciless novel.’