Viktor and Katherine Petroff return from a short holiday in Majorca to find somebody is in their house. Meanwhile, Victor and Catherine Petrov return from a short holiday in Majorca and on the way home suffer a minor traffic collision. At the same time, Victor and Katherine Petrovas are involved in a major car crash and are killed outright. Three near identical couples. Two have slipped through the cracks from other universes. Trapped in a world which is almost – but not quite – like their own, they must work together to figure out how they travelled the multiverse to become stranded in a strange land. The underlying theme of Vitali Vitaliev’s new science-fiction comedy thriller, however, is not so much the multiverse as that eternal question: how well do we know our loved ones? Relationships are strained, new attachments are formed and the beautiful little differences that make each of us unique are examined closely.
“Granny Yaga’ follows the switchback adventures of a boy called Danya (Danny), born in Eastern Europe, but now living in north London where the local she-dragons are notorious fighters, and any alert passer-by can spot Granny herself flying low over the British Museum. Danny becomes Granny’s aide-de-camp in a life-or-death duel with the demon Koshchei, fought out on the London underground, in disused stations, boarded-up houses and the enchanted skies over Crouch End, with back-up from the relatively orthodox magic of Yesterdayland (huts on chicken legs, talking cats, self-catering tablecloths) and the realpolitik of its neighbouring Soviet satellite, a land of cruel edicts and capricious tsars where the workers are permanently drunk, and the loo seats belonging to each family in a communal flat hang side by side on the wall ‘like luckless horseshoes’.
Vitali Vitaliev is used to journeys and in this book he takes us as a companion on a journey of time and space- dozens of countries over two decades- and a journey of the mind. He is a great companion. By turns wry, tragic, and laugh-out-loud funny, in the end he delivers a tour-de-force of warmth and humanity. The stream of consciouness structure creates links between places and people- Tasmania and Clive James, London and Peter Ustinov- that scintilate with wit and wisdom. He meets his triumphs and disasters and eventually treats those two imposters just the same.
What does it mean to be European? The answer lies not in Brussels, but in Europe’s forgotten enclaves – tiny fragments of one country cut off and completely surrounded by another. Stuck for centuries between two different cultures, currencies and (at times) languages, each is resplendent with idiosyncrasies. An enclave all of his own, Vitaliev, a Ukrainian-born Russian Jew with Australian and British citizenships, set out on a personal quest to find out what really defines the continent, just as a uniform European identity – in the guise of the Euro – was being imposed from Brussels. A state he dubs EU-SSR.
The famous guidebook writer and publisher, Karl Baedeker, never visited Ireland. But many of his contemporaries did. Using a selection of these old books, Vitaliev retraces their steps and reports on twenty-first century Ireland, in the age of the Celtic Tiger, contrasted with the island a century ago.
One Could assume that with the collapse of Communism, Eastern Europeans would drink less than before. Surely democracy can offer many more means of escape than alcohol? After all there are high quality consumer goods, a free press, foreign travel … even the spice Girls? The reality however is very different.
In BORDERS UP! Vitali Vitaliev travels to Hungry, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania in an attempt to find out why drinking in post-Communist Eastern Europe has increased dramatically since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why is it that countries once ruled by a strong hand are now, ruled by strong drink?
Vitali has travelled to 11 European mini-states whose overlooked communities he describes in this book. He champions the cause of small is beautiful, and the cause of freedom, autonomy and self-government, providing insights into the new Europe as it emerges from the shadow of the Soviet Union.