Olga Slavnikova

Pryzhok v dlinu The Jump
Novel. AST. Moscow 2017. Shortened version approx. 320 pages

Young Vedernikov is a natural talent. He hops, skips and jumps and nothing can keep him on the ground. Defying gravity is his thing. His PE-teacher recognizes his potential and begins to train him. Vedernikov wins all competitions in the long-jump. He is the next great hope for the European championships. One day on his way to his training session he notices how a young boy inattentively wanders in front of a car. Vedernikov sprints and jumps. He saves the child. His life-saving jump is a new record. But in the process he is run over by the car and loses both his legs.

Contrary to expectations, the novel is neither empathic nor critical about the difficulty of being disabled in Russian society. Vedernikov spurns the attempts of his trainer who wants him to enter in the Paralympics. He spurns his affluent and pragmatic mother who, instead of really looking after him, provides him with money and the latest artificial limbs. He lacks nothing except a meaning of life. And what follows is a merciless parable about good and evil based on a twist of fate that has evidently spared the wrong person.

His carer Lida looks after all of Vedernikov needs. And she eagerly takes on the role of a surrogate mother for Zhenya, the boy Verernikov saved, whose parents neglect him and who Vedernikov has taken under his wing. By bringing Zhenya up, Vedernikov wants at least to give this young life a reason for living, a reason he cannot give himself. But as Zhenya grows up it becomes more and more apparent that the young ward is a good-for-nothing and a monster. Zhenya develops into a fine example of a Russian white-collar gangster. And into Vedernikov's evil shadow.

All of a sudden it becomes clear that even Vedernikov was never really thoroughly decent. To give life some meaning, he plans to murder his ward. But it all ends with yet another long-jump of destiny and a completely unexpected twist of fate.

Slavnikova’s cutting analysis does not miss an opportunity to expose, with irony and detachment, but without illusion, her protagonists' intersecting motives and relationships whether they be between Vedernikov, his mother, the carer Lida, her husband Aslan who does not want to have a child with her, the ward Zhenya and his parents or Vedernikov's trainer. THE JUMP is neither idyllic nor tragic, it has no contradicting truth and lies, but instead illustrates the clash of many different truths meeting on the solid ground of harsh reality.

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