Edward Docx Self Help

ISBN 13: 9780330447614

Self Help

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9780330447614: Self Help

A sweeping transcontinental novel of secrets and lies buried within a single family

Thirty-two-year-old Gabriel Glover arrives in St. Petersburg to find his mother dead in her apartment. Reeling from grief, Gabriel and his twin sister, Isabella, arrange the funeral without contacting their father, Nicholas, a brilliant and manipulative libertine. Unknown to the twins, their mother had long ago abandoned a son, Arkady, a pitiless Russian predator now determined to claim his birthright. Aided by an ex-seminarian whose heroin addiction is destroying him, Arkady sets out to find the siblings and uncover the dark secret hidden from them their entire lives.

Winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Pravda is a darkly funny, compulsively readable, and hauntingly beautiful chronicle of discovery and loss, love and loyalty, and the destructive legacy of deceit.

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About the Author:

Edward Docx is the author of the acclaimed The Calligrapher, named a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. He lives in London.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Part I OCTOBER The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure, to live it you have to explode.
—Bob Dylan, “Where Are You Tonight?
(Journey Through Dark Heat)”

LOVE AND CHAOS 1 Gabriel Glover

He was relieved to be again among the Russians. Nothing to do with his head, or even his heart, but in his soul: some kind of internal alignment or tessellation. He looked up at the clock on the wall above the brown lift doors. He’d lost two hours with the delays. But the London panic had given way to cool urgency, a calculating haste. There would be the visa and passport queues. There would be the usual wrangle with the taxi driver—unless he agreed up front to pay the tourist price. And then there would be traffic on Moskovsky . . . An hour and a quarter and he should be there.
The doors opened. The other Europeans and the Americans hesitated. He pushed his way inside with the Russians and a Finnish businessman with a tatty attaché. Everyone was already smoking. He squashed up and breathed it in: the flavor of the tobacco—more aromatic, smokier. An old woman swathed in a heavy black shawl with her hair tied up in a scalp-tightening white bun began shouldering her myriad straps, grasping numberless bags, grimly determined to be the first out.
But he was quicker. He walked swiftly across the vast immigration hall—the high two-tone walls, light Soviet tan at the base and dark Soviet mahogany at the top. There were only two queues for nonresidents. He had hoped for three or four. The first was shorter but comprised disorderly families and excited tourists; the second was mainly businessmen, money people. Follow the money. Money, after all, had won.
He put down his bag. These last few miles always seemed such an incremental agony, especially when the previous thousand he had scorched across the curve of the Earth. And now the candor that he had been evading for the past thirty-six hours finally ambushed him: okay, yes, it was true, this call had been different. Much worse. Something was really wrong. Something serious. Otherwise why would he have gone straight to the airport this morning and taken the first flight via Hel-bloody-sinki?

The slab-faced man in the booth looked up from the pages of the passport and met his eyes through the bulletproof glass.
“Your name?” “Gabriel Glover.” “How old are you?” “Thirty-two.” There was a long scrutinizing pause, as if the official were formulating a difficult third question, something beginning with “why.” Gabriel straightened up, consciously pulling his shoulders back, as both Lina and Connie reminded him to do—one thing at least they had in common—and stood with proper posture at his full fiveeleven. He was dressed half scruffily, in cheap jeans and scuffed boots, and half elegantly, in a dark tailored pure wool suit jacket and fine white shirt—as though he had not been able to make up his mind about who he really was or which side he was on when he set out. He had the figure of someone thin through restlessness, through exercise of the mind rather than of the body; he had liquid dark eyes and his hair was near-black and kicked and kinked at the ends, not so much a style as a lack of one, stylishly passing itself off. Immigration officials usually had him down as Mediterranean before they opened up his passport: Her Britannic Majesty requests and requires . . .
The official’s silence was becoming a test of stamina. He felt the urge to say something—anything—whatever confession was most required. But at last the Russian gave a grotesque smile followed by a parody of that long-suffering American imperative: “Enjoy.” “Thank you.” And his passport was returned to him slowly beneath the glass, as if it documented nothing but the transit excuses of a notorious pimp turned pederast turned priest turned politician. (Truly these people were the masters of contempt.) Now he had to wait for his luggage. They had forced him to check it in: too heavy.
For five minutes he fidgeted by the jaws of the empty carousel like an actor misguidedly aping madness. Then he could stand it no longer. He struck yet another deal with himself—no smoking in London, but okay, fine abroad—and set off to buy some cigarettes from the kiosk with the rubles he had left over from the last trip. When was that? Six weeks ago? No, less . . . Four weeks ago. This had to stop.
There was no relief at first—just acridity and watering eyes—but by midway through the second he was tempered, smoking greedily and watching the Russians. If ever there was a nation that understood waiting . . . And it occurred to him all over again why she had wanted to come back: because there was something that appealed to her particular vvanity here, something fierce and irreducible, some semi-nihilistic condition of character.
He remembered her speaking about just this quality when he was a child. She too must have been quite young then, at one of the London parties, perhaps—he and Isabella, his twin sister, had been allowed to stay up, listening carefully for their cues in the adult conversation. She had been talking to Grandpa Max: “The difference between the Russian character and the Western is that we Russians have learned to live our days in the full knowledge that whatever transpires in the interim, the sun will eventually expand and humanity will be incinerated. It’s a way of life precisely opposite to the American Dream. Call it Russian fatalism if you like. But it gives us a sense of perspective, a sense of humor, and perhaps a certain dignity.” He exhaled smoke through his nose. Her declarations and her pronunciations—was ever a person so convinced of the absolute truth of her latest opinion? She must have been unbearable when she was younger. Her voice was in his head too much these days, especially since the calls had started in earnest; indeed, there were moments when he found himself unable to distinguish his thoughts from hers. His luggage.

“You’re just like your father.” “I’m not listening to this. That’s not even true. I’ve got to go to bed now.” “You are still with Lina?” (Lina’s voice through the open bedroom door: “Gabriel? Are you off the phone? Can you bring me some water? And put the lettuce back in the fridge.”) “Since we spoke yesterday?” It was Sunday night. He tried to keep the anger out of his voice. “Am I still with Lina since this time yesterday? Yeah. Since yesterday, I’m still with Lina. The same as the last four years. Nothing has changed. Listen, I am—” “And Connie?” The line clicked irregularly, all the way across Europe.
“Nothing has changed in the last twenty-four hours.” He almost hissed the words. That was unusually devious and unnecessary, even by her standards. “But you know I can’t speak . . .” “You can always speak to me.” He had started whispering. “Lina is awake. It’s . . . it’s midnight. I have to go to bed.” “Going sideways, going sideways, going sideways. Can’t go forward. Can’t go back. So you go sideways.” “I’ll call tomorrow from work.” “Like your father.” “No. Stop. That’s it. I’ll call you tom—” “Don’t go.” Her voice contained a new note of . . . of what? Desperation?
“I promise I will call you tomorrow.” “Gabriel.” He felt her reaching in for his heart. And he felt his heart uncoil. “Okay. But I do have to go soon. And—and you should be in bed too. It’s what? Christ, it’s past three with you. It’s the middle of the night.” “It’s difficult for you. I know.” “What is? You’re not sounding great. You’re rasping. Seriously, is everything okay?” “To inhabit yourself fully. Very few people do this anymore. But you and I, we try—correct? We try to hold the line . . . Even though this will cost us almost everything we have—this great indignity, this great antagonism, this great protest.” She coughed. “Which is itself pointless.” He was unnerved now. More riddles. His attention wholly focused.
“But—listen to me.” She spoke more steadily. “You have to be fierce in the face of all the cowardice you see around you. And you have to say, ‘No. For me, no. I will not. I will not lie down and I will not give up. I will not do or be or become anything that you wish me to. However you disguise it, however you describe it—politics, religion, economics—I will continue to stand here and tell you that what you believe in is a lie and what you have become is a falsehood.’” “Why—why—are you talking to me like this?” Another cough and suddenly she became urgent. “Will you come tomorrow?” “To Petersburg?” “Yes.” “I can’t. I’m at work tomorrow.” “Your work is a joke. Come tomorrow.” “I can’t just . . . Why are you laughing? Jesus—you’re coughing.” He continued to speak, but he knew that she could not hear. “Oh God . . . It’s getting worse.” For nearly a minute he stood there listening to her hacking. But it was unendurable. So he started up again, shouting into the phone, regardless of waking Lina. “Can you hear me? Are you there? Hold the phone up.” A few seconds of quiet, her breathing like wind through rusted barbed wire. “Oh God . . . You’re crying.” And then this: “Do you love me, Gabriel?” She had never asked him such a thing. Not once.
“Yes. Of course. You know I do.” “Say it in Russian.” “Ya tyebya lyublyu.” “Come tomorrow. Promise me.” “You’ve got to move back to London. And you don’t have to live in the old house.” He would have set out that instant if he could have made it there any faster by doing so.
“Petersburg is my home. You must be here tomorrow. I will give you the money. I want to see you. I will talk. There are so many things I have to tell you.” “I need a visa.” “Come the day after, then. Get an express visa. I’ll pay.” “Are you crying?” “Promise me.” “Okay. Okay. I promise.” It was one thirty-five U.K. time when he finally hung up. Three and a half hours later, he was standing at the front of the already lengthening queue outside the Russian embassy on Kensington Palace Gardens, watching a grout-gray dawn seep slowly through the cracks in the east.
The driver was crazier than he had dared hope. He clasped the handrail above the passenger door, the muscles tensing in his upper arm as the taxi veered left onto Moskovsky. Wide and straight, the road into town was as Stalin-soaked in the monochrome of tyranny as the center of the city was bright and colorful with the light of eighteenthcentury autocracy.
“Democracy is difficult for us, Gabriel,” she often said. “In Russia we are required to live within the pathologies of the strongest man—whatever he titles himself. That way we all know where we are and what we are doing. However bad it gets.” The cars were moving freely—the battered Czech wrecks and tattered Russian rust crates, the sleek German saloons and the tinted American SUVs, overtaking, undertaking, switching lanes in a fat salsa of metal and gasoline. Still no phone network; it didn’t usually take this long. He shifted in the back seat, lit his fourth cigarette, and wound down the window as the cab slowed for the lights. A mortally decrepit bus bullied its way across the intersection, discharging plumes of what looked like . . . like coal dust. The pollution was worsening: particles seemed to hang heavy and brazen as nails in the lower air, a blunt parody of the fine mists that must have once come dancing up the Neva from the sea to greet great Peter himself as he rode out across the marshes to meet his enemies.
He would stay with the cab: twenty minutes and he’d be there. No need to jump out and take the underground. Gorolov-Geroev Park was just ahead now—he could see the scrub trees behind the tarnished railings, and there was the crooked-nosed old man with that same heavily lapeled sports jacket still selling books and magazines on the corner. Not really selling. More like minding them for someone or something never to come. Jesus, it was as if he had not been away. How many times was he going to have to do this?
He bent to look up. The sky was low and lowering. The plane had been in rainclouds for much of the descent. The wind must be carrying them inland from the west. He tried to listen to the music from the ill-tuned station on the car radio; it sounded like Kino. Something off Gruppa Krovi maybe— he couldn’t be sure—beauty and despair bound in razor wire and thrown overboard together, whitelipped now beneath the ice, thrashing it out, life and death. His sister would have known the exact song, the exact version. A current of anger joined the stream of his thinking. Isabella hadn’t been over for nearly a year. Longer, in fact—twenty-one months: Christmas—the Mariinsky—that vicious wind on the walk home, which froze the nose and iced the eyeballs, three atheists on their knees at Kazan Cathedral early the next morning.
The truth was that he wished he had managed to get hold of Isabella last night instead of leaving a message. The truth was that he was no longer sure of the truth. And he trusted his sister to apprehend things precisely—to seek out the quiddity of things and, once grasped, never let go, to insist, to assert, to confirm. Whereas for him . . . for him the truth seemed to be slipping away with each passing year, losing distinctiveness, losing clarity, losing weight. Duplicity, hypocrisy, and cant, the primary colors he once would have scorned, he now saw in softer shades. Perhaps this was the aging process: bit by bit truth grows faint until she vanishes completely, leaving you stranded on the path, required to choose a replacement guide from those few stragglers left among your party—Surly Prejudice, Grinning Bewilderment, Purblind Grievance.
The thin beep of his phone locating a network. He sat up smartly, let the cigarette fall outside the window, and pressed the last dial button. A child’s unmediated eagerness ran through him. With every second he expected her voice . . . But the ringing continued as if to spite him. And he began to picture the phone shrilling on the side table by the bay window—the dusty light, the red-cushioned casement seats, the chess set forever ready for action. He imagined her climbing from the bath, or hurrying from the shower, or fumbling with keys and bags at the door.
ventually the line went dead.
He hit redial. They were coming toward Moskovskaya—he could see the statue of Lenin a little farther on, the right arm aloft—one of the few still standing. This time he listened intently to the exact pitch and interval of the ring tone. No answer. No bloody answer.
The line went dead again. She must be out. Maybe she was tired of waiting and he’d get there to find one of her notes on the table: “At café such and such with so and so, come and join”—as if he should know the café or the friend. Or maybe she was just refusing to pick up the phone for reasons she would soon be telling him— something dark and colossally unlikely involving organized crime, her time in the Secretariat. Redial. The fact was that he was utterly at a loss as to what she was really trying to communicate to him. The direct accusations, sly allusions, subject swerves, sudden changes of register that served (and were meant to serve) only to draw further attention to the preceding hints. Redial. Individual exchanges made sense, and yet when he got off the phone he could not discern what lay behind her pointed choice of subject, her denouncements, her fabrications. He gave up as the line went dead the fourth time. Why wasn’t she answering the bloody phone? And suddenly all his anger passed away. And he knew that he would do this forever if necessary.
His mobile had heated his ear and he put it down on the seat away from him as the driver slowed for the traffic again. And here they were crawling beneath mighty Lenin’s arm. “That failure,” she always said, “is our failure, Gabriel, is the failure of all of us. Such dreams expired. More dreams than we can imagine—all extinguished by that failure. Not just in the past but in the future...

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Book Description Pan MacMillan, United Kingdom, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Unabridged edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. Alone in her native St Petersburg, Maria Glover sends an urgent summons to London and New York. Her son and daughter arrive too late to see her, but the end of their mother s life marks the beginning of their own story: one of secrets, strangers, and the ultimate retelling of everything they thought they knew. Docx knows that what we want most from a novel are stories into which we can sink our teeth and our hearts. His ability to evoke the atmosphere of a city is almost Dickensian - Guardian . Full of insight: on the state of Russia, Britain and the US; and on the nature of music, addiction, love and sex. Funny and involving and the characters are often priceless - Metro . I was amazed at the detail of Docx s St Petersburg, with all its beauty and cruelty, similar to the style of Dostoevsky - Financial Times . Unforgettable. Not since What a Carve Up! has there been such an absorbing indictment of the family - Independent on Sunday . Bookseller Inventory # AA79780330447614

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Book Description Pan MacMillan, United Kingdom, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Unabridged edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. Alone in her native St Petersburg, Maria Glover sends an urgent summons to London and New York. Her son and daughter arrive too late to see her, but the end of their mother s life marks the beginning of their own story: one of secrets, strangers, and the ultimate retelling of everything they thought they knew. Docx knows that what we want most from a novel are stories into which we can sink our teeth and our hearts. His ability to evoke the atmosphere of a city is almost Dickensian - Guardian . Full of insight: on the state of Russia, Britain and the US; and on the nature of music, addiction, love and sex. Funny and involving and the characters are often priceless - Metro . I was amazed at the detail of Docx s St Petersburg, with all its beauty and cruelty, similar to the style of Dostoevsky - Financial Times . Unforgettable. Not since What a Carve Up! has there been such an absorbing indictment of the family - Independent on Sunday . Bookseller Inventory # AA79780330447614

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