The Zero Train
First published in 1993 and shortlisted for the Russian Booker Prize, Zero Train has enjoyed great success in Russia and in Europe. The Zero Train has the intensity of Dostoevsky and a love affair as touching as that of Doctor Zhivago.
The setting is Siding No 9, a remote Soviet railway settlement run by the secret police and serving the so-called Zero Train. The cargo of this sealed 100-wagon train is unknown to the employees of the siding as is the train's provenance; some suspect something sinister and become obsessed by the mystery. The attempted disentanglement of the mystery, which leads to madness and murder, is at the heart of the novel. The train itself forms the basis of a dense web of symbols examining the nature of life lived in the service of an ideal neither known or understood, thus allowing The Zero Train to be read as a study of the ordinary individual under Stalin.
The novel begins with Don Domino, an old man, watching a now almost deserted settlement unable to comprehend in his gathering insanity that the track is no longer there and that the Zero Train has stopped passing through. The narrative continues as a series of flashbacks which draw the reader into his life and the mysteries of the Line.
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