Paranoia, Victor Martinovich’s debut novel is banned in his home country of Belarus–is it worth the fuss?by David Anderson / July 14, 2013 / Leave a comment
If not quite a whirlwind, Victor Martinovich’s debut novel Paranoia has certainly stirred up a few gusts of interest, not least with the Belarusian state authorities. After two days in the bookshops in 2009, it disappeared. A story of doomed love and police-surveillance set against the backdrop of a lightly fictionalised Minsk, the book has now resurfaced in an English translation by Diane Nemec Ignashev, published by Northwestern University Press.
Making the most of its publication history, the English edition of Paranoia comes saddled with a somewhat naff blurb, urging the reader “not to read this book,” because “any unsanctioned comparisons with historical figures alive today may be qualified as a criminal offence punishable under national and international law.”
The immediate question becomes, therefore, do the contents live up to the bombast? Or is Paranoia just another addition to the list of banned books whose literary merits fail to match the subject matter?
In her foreword, Nemec Ignashev offers flattering comparisons to a retinue of literary and cultural figures, many of whom Martinovich namechecks within the text itself. The practice is justified by the fact that the protagonist, Anatoly, is a writer.