Sukhbat Aflatuni

Poklonenie volkhvov The Adoration of the Magi
Novel. Ripol 2015. 776 pages

The saga of the Triyarski family covers Russian history from the tsars in the middle of the 19th century through the revolution and the red terror to beyond the soviet era. The patriarch of the family, Nikolai, is a progressive architect who associates with enlightened secret societies in St. Petersburg. These are betrayed as being agitators and sentenced to death. On the 22nd December 1849, they are taken to the scaffold and about to be executed together with Dostoevski, but are surprisingly reprieved at the last second by the Tsar himself. Nikolai is unaware that he has his sister Varvara to thank for the reprieve. She has yielded to the Tsar and become his mistress in order to rescue her brother. When Varvara becomes pregnant she retires to a convent where she gives birth to a son. The story-line now moves to Kirghizia, where not only Nikolai has been exiled, but also where Varvara has been abducted by slave traders. Just before he dies the Tsar has his offspring brought to the palace and exchanges this illegitimate but healthy son for his sick nephew Nikolai; the two being so alike, they could be mistaken for twins.
Beginning with the star stolen from the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 1847, which was the cause of the Crimean war, to the doppelgänger of the Russian crown-prince and further to the first space station Salyut 1, whose crew could not be brought back to Earth alive - Aflatuni uses facts supported by documentary evidence or incompletely resolved mysteries to weave a fantastic illusionary family history of the highest literary standard. Even with the dramatic changes of historically exciting settings from St. Petersburg via Tashkent to Harbin, Tokyo and New York, the geographic and historical hub of the novel remains Central Asia. Here is the melting-pot of the world religions, here was the soviet space-flight base, here the Grand Duke Nikolai Romanov really lived and was entombed in the local cathedral, and where the characters of the novel go in a procession at Christmas as the story ends in 1990.

An extraordinary book that equals Umberto Eco’s "The Name of the Rose" and Carlos R. Zafon’s "The Shadow of the Wind".