Novel with Cocaine by M. Ageyev – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Set in the years immediately before and after the Russian Revolution, Novel with Cocaine follows the life of Vadim, a Moscow adolescent and student. Vadim is prone to self-loathing and disdainful of others, none more so than his mother, whose aged appearance and shabby clothes he finds acutely embarrassing. One night he seduces a girl, this despite the fact that unbeknown to her he is suffering from a venereal disease. Later he meets Sonya, an older, married woman, whom he becomes infatuated with. When our anti-hero is introduced to cocaine, he describes in intricate detail the physical and psychological effects of losing his ‘nasal virginity’, as his companions refer to it. Vadim continues experimenting with the drug.
Novel with Cocaine is a depressing, nihilistic, philosophical and at times amusing novel about adolescence and addiction that could be described as Dostoyevskian, due to its realism and the thorough psychological exploration of its main character. Though its anti-hero Vadim is a reprehensible character, this reader was impressed by his profound insights into the human condition.