THE PSYCHO AGENT

Novel

2011

352 pp

Publishers: AST, Astrel, Moscow

  • -          Andrei Rubanov is the only writer to make it onto the long list of the National Bestseller Prize this year with three titles, including his latest novel THE PSYCHO AGENT

    -          The first printing of 7,000 copies sold out within the first two weeks after its publication at the end of February, 2011

The Psycho Agent, Andrei Rubanov’s breakthrough after his debut prison novel Do Time, Get Time, supersedes ready-to-hand comparisons with Houellebecq and Wolfe and their social denouncements in this truly “big Russian novel” on love and punishment.

 

“Psycho Agent” is a term coined by the author to identify a person who engages in the psychological suppression of another person for his own benefit: an “agent” or initiator of psychosis, a psychological “cannibal”.

 

Such is Kirill Korablik, a.k.a Cactus, a 40-year-old convicted murderer, released on parole after only eighteen months of his prison term, who bursts into the life of an ordinary young couple.

 

Mila Bogdanova, 28, knows that she is smart and beautiful, and is determined to get whatever she desires. With solid professional credentials as a top accountant in a small Moscow-based firm, she has recently established having a happy personal life as a major priority. Her partner Boris loves cars, as well as his own private business in auto tuning—and, naturally, his girlfriend Mila. Boris knows he can provide a good income for the two of them even when business is bad: he rents out a large flat in Moscow’s city center. With their friends—Masha who lavishly spends her days between partners and their wallets; and Masha’s latest boyfriend Dima, a bright and well-to-do representative of the modern Moscow cultural beau monde—they merge and mingle,   contributing to the formation of the new Russian middle class. The “Buoyant Russians,” as the author dubs them, these young people are prepared to live life to the hilt, though they can hardly imagine what this will mean for them. 

 

The two couples celebrate the New Year in a country house. Kirill, a friend from Boris’s childhood years, pays a short visit with the purpose of giving him an extravagant present: the photograph of an old Jaguar selling at bargain basement price, and the first installment for the deal. On returning from the country after their short holiday break, the excited Boris and Mila discover that someone has broken into their flat. The robbery sets in motion the couple’s underlying problems. Mila does not want to stay in the defiled place and moves out, while Boris refuses to take action, instead sinking into a vodka-induced alcoholic haze. A growing number of  unscrupulous competitors, his mother’s progressive alcoholism, and even the wedding with Mila planned for the coming summer all drag Boris down into a deep depression. Kirill, on the other hand, shows up shortly thereafter to report that the robber has been detained, and that their belongings will soon be restored to them. Kirill is benevolent, supportive and kind. Mila, however, suspects that the gracious friend who has suddenly taken control of their lives may have secret motives. Mila resolves to get to know Kirill better. Their swiftly developing relationship escalates into a ruthless duel, and stakes are much too high. Mila realizes that Kirill threatens not only the peace and love of her family, but that their very lives are in danger.

 

“The theme of the novel is biblical: “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife”. The agent in the novel is hardly Prince Charming. The narrative centers on the battle between Beauty and the Beast; between a modern young woman who fights for her happiness, and a man—a broken 40-year-old fossil from the troubled Soviet epoch,”  says Andrei Rubanov.

       

In this essentially pop-lit novel, Andrei Rubanov masterfully draws a gallery of vivid, utterly believable characters, and keenly observes the slightest shifts in dramatic psychological development. Rubanov’s blunt, somewhat publicist narrative examines truly Dostoevskian questions from a surprising new angle, with a fresh twist that adds volume and topicality to the vast panoply of popular literature of the 21st century.

 

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