Cover image for The hand, or, The confession of an executioner
The hand, or, The confession of an executioner
Aleshkovskiĭ, I͡Uz.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Ruka. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1990.
General Note:
Translation of: Ruka.
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Author Notes

Aleshkovsky, a former prison-camp inmate, enjoyed anonymous fame in the Soviet Union as the author of a celebrated song about Stalin and an obscenely funny novella, Nikolai Nikolaevich, which circulated in samizdat. Born in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, he has lived in the United States since 1979, where his works have been appearing in Russian and in some English translations. The Hand (1980), his second novel, is a monologue by a KGB executioner-a powerful exploration of Soviet history, though slightly boring in its plethora of scatology.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

A running scatalogical monologue directed by a KGB executioner at one of his victims, this second novel by the author of Kangaroo is so cleverly written and hilariously funny that it demands to be read in one sitting. Colonel Bashov, nicknamed ``The Hand'' for his strength and skills as interrogator, executioner and sometimes confessor, has finally built a case against Citizen Gurov, a member of the communist elite who participated as a young Chekist in the brutal murder of Bashov's father and other residents of his village. Crackling with dark humor, the narrative demonstrates how Bashov, devoting his life to tracking down the murderers, manipulated modern Soviet history to concoct cases through half-truths or lies. When not interrogating Gurov, trying to get him to confess to the murder of his mistress, Bashov digresses into his own past, his childhood spent in the Anti-Fascism Children's Home and his subsequent rise to the secret service. Toward the novel's end, Bashov, subject to visitations from his long-dead father, goes through a religious conversion and is faced with a Dostoyevskian dilemma--let go of his revenge and perhaps obtain heaven, or eliminate Gurov and go to hell. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As Stalin's executioner, Colonel Bashov (``the Hand'') dispenses justice to all enemies of the people with a single blow, earning the respect and fear of his security police comrades. Unknown to them, however, he is also pursuing a private plan of revenge against the Communists responsible for razing his childhood village and executing his family. As this novel begins, he has cornered his final prey, Gurov, in his opulent dacha and is preparing him for death. Aleshkovsky intertwines Bashov's moving and compelling monolog relating his own life of victimization and vengeance with Gurov's debased lust for party glory. As Bashov questions the tension within himself between reason's quest for revenge and his soul's hunger for salvation, Aleshkovsky lays bare the bankrupt foundation of the Soviet state and foretells its ultimate demise. Read in the context of contemporary events, Aleshkovsky's second novel is powerfully prophetic. With an introduction by Joseph Brodsky.--Ed.-- Paul E. Hutchison, Fishermans Paradise, Bellefonte, Pa. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.