Vassily Aksyonov - A Ticket to the stars
When I searched for this book and then bought it I didn't know anything more than "Soviet Union bestseller in the 1960s about a bunch of young guys going to Estonia". For my curiosity that was enough for expecting something interesting.
And yet, while reading another Russian novel about travelling by train from the Russian capital city to somewhere else (Moscow to the end of the line by Venedikt Erofeev) I became more and more sceptical about the possibility of reading Aksyonov's one. Erofeev's writing style was confused and hard to follow in sobriety for really capturing my attention that much, even being able of getting his genius and wit here and there.
In fact, when I finished that book I moved "Ticket to the stars" on a distant shelf, far from my view. I made a mistake.
My cat saved me. While hunting a grasshopper in my room she accidentally throw down Aksyonov's novel, that I had almost forgot meanwhile.
I picked up the book and started to read it for winning insomnia without any serious intention of going that far with it. At the contrary, Ticket to the stars turned out to be a refreshing book, about some Moscovite guys in their late teens who decide to win over their boredom going to Tallinn by train with some idealistic dreams of getting a living while there.
The way in which the author write about this bunch of four is really interesting, because of his decision of changing narrator in the different sections of the book. So at first is the older brother of one of the runaway guys, then is the young guy himself, then the story switches to another narrator and so it goes. This might have been confusing but it's not, because of very clear division of the different sections of the novel (I think it helped being published in episodes on a magazine).
At the same time, there is another risk that Aksyonov managed to avoid. Writing about Soviet Union in the early 1960s without putting focus on politics and more or less obscure satire about the government was not that easy. And yet this book is about youth, not about Ussr. Of course the frame around the travelling guys is soviet Russia (they find a job in a kolkhoz, they smoke "proletarian cigarettes", they are shameful of having not read enough Turgenev or Tolstoj), but the novelist talks about them, their aspirations, their dreams, their struggle for being independent from their families.
I've read how this book was not particularly appreciated by the inner circles of Soviet Union when it became popular and now that I finished I can understand the main reasons why. Ticket to the Stars was a brave attempt of writing something new, far from the regime literature as well as the creative (and sometimes frankly boring) forms of literary protests against it. Vassily Aksyonov - or whatever his name is spelt - was a step forward.