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About the Author
Sergei Lebedev, a poet, essayist, and journalist, is one of Russia's most lauded young writers. He was born in Moscow in 1981 and worked for seven years on geological expeditions in Asia and northern Russia.
A taut spy thriller with Gothic flourishes ... It offers not only a compelling reworking of real-life events, but an insight into the psychological effects of poisoning, literal and metaphorical, in Russia and beyond.
--The Wall Street Journal
The topicality of this fierce novel risks overshadowing its literary and literary historical qualities. To my mind it invites comparisons with two beacons of extremism from the earlier twentieth century: Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon and the terrifyingly aestheticized war diaries of Ernst Jünger.
--The Times Literary Supplement
Lebedev writes superbly and his denouement deftly blends comedy and poignancy.
--The Sunday Times (London)
One of Russia's most interesting young novelists takes on Putin, poison and power in this unique novel; Lebedev provides a fascinating window on modern Russia.
--Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Twilight of Democracy and Gulag: A History
Immensely readable ... Takes the spy novel and transforms it into something akin to a political, even spiritual, allegory.
--The Financial Times
"I was captured by the velvet lyricism of his prose and his le Carré-ish plot ... A geologist by training, Lebedev's fiction excavates what lies beneath: the inner lives of earlier generations, buried under layers of official myth and self-deceit ... the strange dualism that allows loving fathers to serve tyranny by day and to tuck their children up at night."
--Luke Harding, author of Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem and Russia's Remaking of the West in The Guardian
Probing the ... horrors that science casually inflicts on people, animals, and the environment. Though Putin is never mentioned, his malevolent presence is felt throughout. A darkly absorbing intellectual thriller by one of Russia's boldest young novelists.
--Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
The darkest impulses of science and power cross paths with human error and plots gone awry in Sergei Lebedev's incisive and all-too-plausible Russian novel about nerve agents, assassination and secrets both political and personal.
--Will Englund, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post and author of March 1917: On the Brink of War and Revolution
Almost prophetic ... There is an elegance, and urgency, to the narrative's slow unfolding of secrets and memories. Untraceable invites us to look at what has been hidden in plain sight.
--The Los Angeles Review of Books
Untraceable, beautifully translated by Antonina W Bouis, is spy fiction of the highest calibre.
--The Irish Times
Enthralling and exquisite, by one of modern Russia's finest writers.
--Philippe Sands, author of East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity
Turn off your television sets and get reading. Sergei Lebedev writes not of the past, but of today.
--Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
Sergei Lebedev is a marvelous writer with two rare gifts: a nobility of style and the most precise inner vision, which allows him to see and plumb the entire depth of the anthropological catastrophe that occurred in twentieth-century Russia. Lebedev has perceived what was invisible to most Soviet and post-Soviet writers.
--Vladimir Sorokin, author of The Blizzard, Day of the Oprichnik and Ice Trilogy
"A spellbinding insight into a secret world that we forget at our peril, a world of assassins, spies, patriots and poison masters whose shockingly evil decisions are made in their unwavering belief of serving a greater good. A thrilling, haunting, essential read.
--Rory MacLean, author of Pravda Ha Ha: Truth, Lies and the End of Europe
Intense from start to finish ... Untraceable explores recent Russian history through the perspectives of its central characters, who embody the worst of the Soviet Union's obsessions and excesses ... Intelligent and stunning, Untraceable is a character-driven thriller about the price of control.
--Foreword Reviews (Starred Review)
One of Russia's leading writers ... Lebedev's rich and ruminative writing raises important questions about the ethics and personal costs of perpetrating anonymous mass murder.
The Russian government's poisoning of political enemies provides the backdrop for this timely thriller ... Assured prose is a plus ... Those who prefer a more literary approach will enjoy the change of pace.
"Lebedev's novel is both a gripping thriller and an unflinching examination of Russia's past ... Untraceable, like a train, slowly rolls through the past, picking up speed toward the denouement, as the two assassins - whom Lebedev calls the novel's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern' - seem thwarted by fate but doggedly pursue their mission. Until the very last pages it is not clear if the lead agent ... will succeed.
--The Moscow Times
Untraceable is not so much an indictment of the Soviet and then its Russian-successor regimes as of the morally void citizens they produce(d). It all works quite well ... A disturbing exposé of a morally bankrupt society and its progeny.
--The Complete Review
Lebedev has a sharp eye for detail and a keen sense of what drives people, he conveys complex meaning with an unerring and pithy precision and does so with style and wit ... This is a novel of ethics and obsession, of entrenched divisions and how power resides in the wrong hands. A devastating portrait of modern Russia, a nation manacled to its bellicose past.
Lebedev takes us into the murky world of those scientists who have developed the country's deadly weapons of targeted destruction.
Written with such artistic depth and subtlety ... artistry in the full meaning of the word ... After news of assassination attempts with military toxic chemicals on people of various professions, including Alexey Navalny, the public had many questions... Sergei Lebedev had a question that is natural for a writer: What kind of person does that?... Literature has always asked about the nature of evil.
Praise for Sergei Lebedev's earlier books:
"Lebedev is arguably the best of Russia's younger generation of writers."
--The New York Review of Books
"A Dantean descent ... as cold and stark as a glacial crevasse, but as beautiful as one, too, with a clear poetic sensibility built to stand against the forces of erasure."
--The Wall Street Journal
"Astonishing ... ingeniously structured around the progressive uncovering of memories of a difficult personal and national past ... with a visceral, at times almost unbearable, force."
--The Times Literary Supplement