The Dream Life of Sukhanov - Olga Grushin

Olga Grushin is obviously passionate about her subject, and for a first novel 'The Dream Life of Sukhanov' is dauntingly impressive.

Book Review by Julian Smith | 15 Jun 2006
Anatoly Pavlovich Sukhanov is the editor of an art magazine in a world where art is a tool of class struggle and beauty is for the bourgeois. In the pages of his magazine he dutifully champions Soviet realism and condemns such Western indulgences as surrealism. But as the title suggests, Sukhanov habours a secret world within, a world he has kept repressed since his days as a young art student: "Only in his most private moments would he ever dream of painting enormous transparent bells raining music from the skies, or groves of springtime trees whose blossoms turned into twittering birds and flew away, or faces of women so ideal they melted as soon as you looked at them."

The recurring themes of the book are at times simplistic and heavy-handed, with the characters delivering overwritten set-pieces on why art is great - but Grushin can be forgiven for laying it on thick. She is obviously passionate about her subject, and for a first novel the book is dauntingly impressive; it has deservedly bee nominated for the Orange Prize for New Writers. If you give Grushin the benefit of the doubt she will convince you that art really can change everything. [Julian Smith]
Published by Viking. Out Now. Cover Price £14.99