By Paavo Matsin
Translated By Adam Cullen
In a parallel or future Estonia, whose language has been outlawed and its native population deported after the invasion by the Russian Tsardom, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol is resurrected, Christ-like, bringing phantasmagoric mayhem to the sleepy town of Viljandi.
By the end of the story, four evangelists will have emerged from the novel’s ragtag cast of Russian- speaking beatniks, bohemians, booksellers, blaggers, and Beatles- maniacs to write their subversive Gogol Gospels in the local insane asylum, despite efforts to thwart them on the part of the mysterious Murka, heroine of a criminal underworld ballad and agent of the Tsardom’s secret police. By turns exuberant, grotesque, erudite, oneiric, hilarious, mystical, psychedelic, and dystopian, Gogol’s Disco tells the parable of a small nation, whose gigantic neighbor quite literally consigns its literature to the latrine, only for it to rise from the dead in a literarily spectacular apocalypse in the best traditions of Bulgakov and magic realism.
Paavo Matsin (b. 1970) began his literary career as a member of Estonia’s 14NÜ experimental writing group. His novels include Doctor Schwartz: The Twelve Keys to Alchemy and The Blue Guard. Gogol’s Disco, a winner of the 2016 European Union Prize for Literature, is his third novel.
Adam Cullen (b. 1986) is a translator of Estonian prose, poetry, and drama into English. His latest translations include Tõnu Õnnepalu’s Exercises, Eno Raud’s The Gothamites, and Kai Aareleid’s Burning Cities (long-listed for the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award). Originally from Minnesota, he has lived in Estonia for over a decade.