4.29 (209 ratings by Goodreads)
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4.29 (209 ratings by Goodreads)

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Travelling through Central Asia in 1996, Frederick Lyre learns of his best friend's disappearance and changes plans to go and find him. Picking up the trail in Moscow, he ventures south to the post Soviet depths of Rostov-on-Don and further into the hinterlands of the fragmented Soviet Union, where he is led deeper into the tangled fate of his oldest friend.

Uncovering hidden characteristics and unexpected motives, Frederick fears that his friend, presumed dead, has been caught up in a tragic sequence of events leading to his destruction. As a rite of passage, a journey of discovery, a travelogue and a psychological portrait of friendship, the novel draws the reader into the hidden world of being which beats beneath the semblance of reality.

The story is intricate and evokes another world, of suburban Rostov tenements, of dachas in the Steppe, of Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, Moscow, the Nyeskuchniy Gardens, the River Don, making love in Tanais, of the sea of Asov, the northern Caucasus, of Stavropol, of refugee camps in Ingushetia, mountains, and field hospitals in the Caucasus, of fin de siecle London, and Aquitaine. From the viewpoint of Frederick, a young man of 23yrs, seeking his friend Cazimir, in the Northern Caucasus in 1996, the narrative blends observation about Russian people and culture, the Don Steppe, post-Soviet urbanscapes at the turn of the century with intimate and sensitive meditations on love, sex, death, religion, God, one's place in society and money, and investigates the potent forces of sexual desire, attraction and adolescent mental health, coming to terms with the powerful subconscious drives of lust, desire, and obsession.

Written as an interior dialogue, with reported conversation, notebook extracts, poems and transcriptions, the text is varied, raw and sometimes uncomfortable. The voice of the narrator Frederick is constant, but on discovery of notebooks written by Cazimir, we learn from Cazimir's first-hand writings, which illuminate his thoughts, despairs, motivations and obsessions. Exit Rostov is a story of friendship and the ends to which one will go to save it. A story of love in its various forms, of the unrequited, the fulfilled, of new love and love that has run its course. A story of how individuals and companies took over ex-Soviet assets and territories, in the aftermath of the Soviet Union's demise, with Public-Private Partnerships. A story of intelligence gathering, Sufi-Islam, of art's supremacy over politics and how other people seek to control others at any cost. A story of how setting out with the best intentions can be fatal. It's a story of discovery, learning how to find people hiding in the layered depths of their divided and most essential, secret selves.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 686 pages
  • 108 x 175 x 3mm | 620g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 102
  • 1916414001
  • 9781916414006
  • 2,274,028

Table of contents

1. A Change of Plans
2. A Draft of Kummel
3. Wreaths of Smoke
4. Sitting with Carlisle
5. A Chasm, Deep and Dark
6. Eloge a l'Arpege
7. You die if you don't have dollars
8. Mahogany Noir
9. Pandaemonium
10. Khaketian Saperavi
11. Uncle Charles
12. Fax Infernal
13. 'Shy' is not a name for love
14. 28/7 Sorge
15. Exquisite Fonts of Light
16. 'Papa' Rostov & the Militant Atheists
17. Kvanchkara Slooshayesh
18. Russian Evil
19. Apostatic concerns
20. From Guilt unto Oblivion
21. Chaliapin and The Green Bortsch
22. By Zuk
23. A Ghost in The Stilted Dacha
24. 'Death, thou art so mundane'
25. Schismatic, Sable Phantom
26. Masha, Shashlyk (A vision foretold)
27. 'Kva, Kva, Kva'
28. Stet Fortuna Domus
29. Lament of Futile Endeavours
30. Along The Dead Donets
31. Love Beneath The Kurgan
32. Under The Swell
33. A Sow's Nipple
34. Alien Parkland of Gloom
35. Billy on the Cote d'Azur
36. La Fee Verte
37. Toscano Cheroots
38. A Sea of Pthalocyanine
39. Sturgeon in Gogol Street
40. The Plan of Asov
41. Strelkov and The Eternal Flame
42. A Volume of Low Wattage Light
43. Dells, Protuberances & Deep Folds
44. Hot Dog and Go
45. Dark Green Lada Niva Saloon
46. Cold Chain
47. Material Shibboleths
48. The Odour of Disinfectant
49. Pigsty of Filth
50. Boiled Gourd and Sheep Sausage
51. Haze of Broken Signals
52. Between The Huts
53. Art is The Vanguard
54. Automatic Voltage Regulator
55. Nikon FM2
56. Pagan, Impure, Abberations
57. Mirko
58. A Dismal Equation
59. Concentric Circles
60. Cargo 200
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Review quote

"A Fascinating Book." -- Charles Cumming. "A great literary, poetic, and artistic read"; "This book initially reminded me of Paul Auster's masterpiece, Leviathan"; "...I remember feeling like this the first time I picked up The Catcher in the Rye. That certain je ne sais quoi that sticks with you even after you close the book."; "The imagery in this book - both in prose and art work is powerful. I wasn't sure if I was going to like this at first. The poetry was odd...and the illustrations were haunting"; "...something about this book pulled me in I can't quite put my finger on it, but somewhere in the off-beat style I got lost in a story of friendship, betrayal, discovery, and travel."; "What I loved...was the integration of media; photos, poems and paintings that gave the narrative additional depth, placing the reader in the visual field of all the main events and tracing the narrator's profound journey through love and war."
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About Henry Virgin

Henry Virgin's first novel 'Exit Rostov' set in 1990s post-Soviet, south of Russia embeds us in the northern Caucasus, amongst the Khrushchyovki of Rostov-on-Don's micro-raions, and the fervent mind of Frederick, seeking his lost friend Cazimir, and meaning, in an existential rite of passage.

His poetry books 'Hot Pink Peach', 'Anthelion 1996', 'The Glass Aubergine' and 'The Phantisaese', investigate the machinations of the human psyche in lyrical feats of poetic abstraction and beauty.

His south China travel journal, 'Teaching in Tangxia' records in diary format, an evocative portrait of a small English language school in a booming Guangdong factory town at the turn of the century, when China became a member of the WTO.

Henry Virgin is a writer and artist. www.henryvirgin.com
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Rating details

209 ratings
4.29 out of 5 stars
5 47% (99)
4 42% (87)
3 5% (10)
2 5% (11)
1 1% (2)
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