The Wizard of the Kremlin
by Giuliano da Empoli
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Pub Date 18 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 6 Feb 2024
An acclaimed, bestselling novel - a stunning work of political fiction that reads like a thriller, about the rise to power of Putin's notorious spin doctor
They call him the Wizard of the Kremlin. Working at the heart of Russian power, the enigmatic Vadim Baranov-Putin's chief spin doctor-has used his background in experimental theatre and reality TV to turn the entire country into an avant-garde political stage. Here truth and lies, news and propaganda, have become indistinguishable. But Vadim is growing increasingly entangled in the dark secret workings of the regime he has helped build, and now he is desperate to get out...
Propelling the reader from the fall of the Soviet Union to the invasion of Ukraine, this breathless story of politics and power has become an international sensation.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 9 members
I received this as an ARC from NetGalley as I liked the description of this book and was intrigued to know more - doubly so given its already been awarded bestseller status in France; I must add here though that I am pro-Ukrainian and a supporter of Zelenskyy and his team. I do try to read some things of the opposing viewpoint however - and this novel serves that purpose well (even though it did not change my own personal viewpoint one little bit.)
I thought that this was beautifully written and very easy to read, as well as being interesting and disturbingly convincing; it's basically a political thriller framed around a confessional of a fictional one- time Putin advisor, Vadim Baranov (who in turn was based on a real Advisor to Putin - Vladislav Surkov). It offers an insight to how affairs in the Kremlin were/are conducted which is rather topical - if rather unsettling given the current climate. It also serves as a constant reminder of how ... evil the current Russian regime is. (I don't think anyone actually needs that reminder right now.)
This book was a swift read for me - I finished it in a few days (which is something I rarely get to do these days, even if I am enjoying the book.) Would i recommend it to others? Very likely if asked to produce recommendations. Even if others - like me - are pro-Ukrainian, I think this is up there as a must-read to gain that insight into an opposing viewpoint. (again, I remain unchanged in my own personal opinion on Russia.)
If you are in the mood for a political novel, read this! It is essentially a very long monologue of Vadim Baranov, a fictional character based on Vladislav Surkov, one of Putin’s closest advisers and spin doctors at the time he rose to power and sought to consolidate it.
The novel is fascinating, mostly because it gives insight in Putin’s philosophy and belief system. But its strongest point for me were the countless nuggets of political wisdom on power and politics and the excellent dialogues with Berezovsky and Putin. And it is very well written as well.
It reminded me a bit of a good Robert Harris novel, who also writes about power very well.
Vadim Baranov, a fictional character based on Putin's advisor, tells his visitor what pushes Putin and Russia when it comes to power. Interesting insights on the recent history of the country, well worth a read in the current political climate.
At times a coming-of-age story in a rapidly transforming Russia, at others almost thriller-like in construction, this is an intriguing glimpse into the rise of Vladimir Putin through the eyes of one of his closest (fictional) advisors. Written by a French-Italian author and translated in this version by a French-American writer, one of the most interesting aspects of this book is the way it criticises the perceived indulgences of the West through the mouthpiece of Baranov, a thinly-veiled stand-in for Vladislav Surkov, once Russia’s deputy prime minister among other more shadowy roles. The book weaves fiction and fact, self-aware of its own construction, never afraid to take a jab at itself in the process.
A history book this is not. But there’s plenty to learn here, and da Empoli has so much to say - about politics, of course, and also about the power of art to shape not just the stories on the page but the stories we build for ourselves and about ourselves. “The future,” Baranov tells our frame narrator, will be determined “not by the competition between two political programs but between two artistic visions.”
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.