By Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt and Co, $15.99, 160 pages
Sasha Zaichik loves Stalin. His greatest dream is to join the Soviet Young Pioneers and become a true Communist like his father, a State Security agent. And he nearly achieves his dream. Nearly. The night before his initiation ceremony, Sasha’s father is arrested. Sasha suddenly becomes the child of an Enemy of the State. Such a child cannot become a Pioneer. To make matters worse, he accidently breaks off the plaster nose from a statue of Stalin. Sasha’s Soviet world gets flipped upside-down.
So why not come to me and say, ‘Sergei Iyanvych, I want to purify myself from the rotten influence of my father. I want to march with my school to where great Stalin leads.’ Huh? You didn’t do that, did you?
Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin is, in a word, fabulous. Russian-born Yelchin has created a powerful and revealing story about the effects of propaganda and indoctrination. Unsettling yet too absorbing to put down, Breaking Stalin’s Nose renews readers’ appreciation for living in a free and democratic society. The narrative, while simple, is elegant and is suitable for those aged far beyond the main character’s ten years. Yelchin’s black and white illustrations compliment the text with their almost sinister and slightly unbelievable feel.
The book’s unassuming size should not deceive anyone – this is “required-reading” material.
Reviewed by Andrea Klein