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3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  361 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Masterfully translated from its original Russian by award-winning translator Marian Schwartz, Thirst tells the story of 20-year-old Chechen war veteran, Kostya. Maimed beyond recognition by a tank explosion, Kostya spends weeks on end locked inside his apartment, his sole companion the vodka bottles spilling from the refrigerator. But soon Kostya’s comfortable, if dysfunct ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 22nd 2011 by AmazonCrossing (first published December 31st 1999)
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Oct 18, 2015 Lyn rated it liked it
Russian author Andrey Gelasimov first published Thirst in 1999 and I have read a Marian Schwartz English translation published in 2011.

In Russia, Gelasimov won the Apollon-Grígoríev Award for this story about a Russian survivor of the Chechen wars, a soldier returned home to Moscow horribly disfigured by his war wounds, his life forever changed by an antagonist’s grenade.

Gelasimov’s protagonist, Kostya, spends his days and weeks in seclusion, guzzling vodka that he stockpiles in his refrigerator
Jun 28, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
Thirst, like most words, doesn’t always mean dry-mouthed. Men with ‘a thirst on’ will drink long beyond the point of rehydration. This is clearly the goal of this novel’s protagonist as he fills his fridge with vodka and stacks the remaining bottles wherever he can find space. He's planning a bender. Why vodka? Because he’s Russian and that’s their thing. Change the sprit to whisky-without-the-e, alter a few geographical details, swap the Chechen War for the Iraq War and call our hero Jimmy inst ...more
Apr 30, 2012 wally rated it really liked it
Shelves: gelasimov
first from gelasimov for me...sounds like a russian name? and does it matter? begins:

all the vodka wouldn't fit in the fridge. first i tried standing the bottles up, and then i laid them on their sides, one on top of the other. the bottles stacked up like transparent fish. then they hunkered down and stopped clinking. but ten or so just wouldn't fit.

i should have told me mother to take this refrigerator back a long time ago. it's an affront to me and the little boy next door. every night this mo
Kathleen McFall
Feb 18, 2012 Kathleen McFall rated it it was amazing
Thirst is a fine book. It's a sharp and compassionate slice of Russian life and contemporary history told through the lens of a small group of well-drawn and deeply sympathetic characters - buddies from the horrific battlefields in Chechnya now meandering through the streets, alleys, train stations and watering holes of Moscow in search of an emotionally fallen comrade. Eschewing didactic moralizing or melodramatic description, the author builds his "hero's journey" narrative slowly - word upon ...more
Jan 11, 2015 Gail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, russian
In some ways this reminded me of Pat Barker's Toby's Room - I suppose the themes of both art and a face mutilated by war, and also the very spare, concise style, capturing a lot in a few words. But in other ways it's totally different - the whole tone. Less of the horror and indignation, I guess, and more of a sense of this is the way life is. Perhaps a British v. Russian difference. A whole cultural difference in approach to life and suffering. I enjoyed Toby's Room, but I preferred Thirst. I f ...more
Jan 13, 2012 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russia
I had never heard of Andrei Gelasimov before undertaking his short novel Thirst, the story of a mutilated veteran of the war in Chechnya named Kostya who looks at his life, past and present, and tries to make some sense out of it.

Why did he join the military in the first place? He came from a broken family and could no longer deal with his stepfather. Thanks to a drunken school director, he develops a love of drawing. This becomes one of the ways he can communicate with others, especially child
Michael Seidlinger
Feb 15, 2012 Michael Seidlinger rated it it was ok
For whenever our wounds are too much to bear, there's always the vodka, the alcohol, to help us through.
One of Konstantin's army buddies has gone missing. Now that he is deformed after practically taking a grenade to the face in Chechnya, the former soldier keeps in touch with his army buddies, nearly drinking himself to oblivion every time he finishes a job. When one of their group goes missing, Konstantin helps to search for him, remembering school, his family, his father's selfishness in leaving his family, and encounters a second family -- his father's second wife and children.

This is a dark
L Fleisig
Apr 25, 2012 L Fleisig rated it liked it
Kostya is a young Russian whose face was burned recognition while serving with the Russian army in its ongoing campaign against the Chechnya insurgents. As Andrei Gelasimov's "Thirst" opens, Kostya is back at home he sits in his apartment, sometimes for weeks at a time, drinking vodka. It seems the only time he leaves his apartment in when his downstairs neighbor asks him to come to her apartment to scare her young child into behaving, doing his homework or going to bed. Kostya's life is as void ...more
Apr 23, 2012 Darryl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This short novel is narrated by a young Russian soldier during the War in Chechnya, who suffers horrible burns to his face and body when the Armed Personnel Carrier he is riding in is blown apart by a grenade. His comrades do not rescue him immediately, assuming he is dead, and then are horrified to see him breathing. After his rescue, he returns to his home village, where his most useful activity is scaring his neighbor's children into obedience. He spends his days in a vodka-fueled haze of mem ...more
Kostia a dix-huit ans lorsqu?il int?gre l?arm?e pour effectuer son service militaire auquel il n?a m?me pas essay? d??chapper. Peu de temps apr?s son arriv?e en Tch?tch?nie, son tank est attaqu? ? la grenade. Ils seront quatre rescap?s et Kostia est tr?s gri?vement br?l? au visage. De retour dans la vie civile, il retape des appartements pour gagner sa vie. Entre deux chantiers, il passe son temps ? boire de la vodka pour supporter le mouvement de recul des gens qui d?couvre son visage ravag? po ...more
Sep 13, 2015 Katie added it
I expected more from this book. I found it a muddled series of memories gathered around a loose plot about finding a missing comerade. We moved between past present and future and although many different relationships were explored, none seemed to have any depth or meaning in their analysis. The book left me cold, although I enjoyed some of the imagery and odd lines of text. Although it was Russian I didn't feel any sense of place. This book could have been so much more!
Nov 15, 2011 Tony rated it it was ok
I enjoy literature from around the world, and I'm interested in post-Soviet Russia, but this sparse novella failed to engage me. It follows a severely scarred young man named Konstantin, who was in an APC that was blown up during the first Chechen War (circa 1994-96). He now lives a quasi-hermetic existence as a self-employed apartment renovator and sometime drunk. The story (which seems to take place sometime in the mid to late 1990s, since no one seems to have a cell phone or computer) follows ...more
Jan 11, 2015 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
Just a heads up, this novel doesn't read linearly because the main character has a lot of flashbacks on his life. However, this makes sense for the main character, who is a disfigured Chechen War veteran with not much else to do except drink. He has to work at night because his personal appearance and recent past in Chechnya scares his neighbors and employers. It's such a thought provoking novel and a great story of self-discovery.
May 18, 2015 Val rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-extra
Konstantin is a veteran of the Chechen war who was badly burnt and scarred, both physically and emotionally. He drinks a lot.
He has stayed in contact with his fellow veterans. They drink a lot.
When he was a boy he was encouraged to draw by a schools director. He drank a lot.
This does not sound a great basis for a story, but it is. Konstantin's journey of discovery and coming to terms with his past, with and without alcohol and often through drawing, is a powerful and compelling narrative.
Feb 25, 2012 Bill rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
An engaging little story from post-Soviet Russia. I love works like this that give you a sense of time and place. Thirst introduces us to Kostoya - disfigured during the mid-90's Chechen war when his armored personnel carrier explodes and he is the last to be pulled out.
After the war Kostoya and his comrades in arms are adrift, affected by what happened, some coping better than other. Kostoya works occasionally as a builder, completing renovations for those who have benefited from the new econom
Dec 21, 2013 Ryan rated it did not like it
I was disappointed by this book. I had first read Gelasimov in the Dalkey Archive's and was almost speechless after reading his story ("The Evil Eye", please read it if you haven't yet). So it may have been that I approached this work with such high expectations. However, there are some issues with the book. I found the pacing too quick, the prose a bit stilted, and overall a bit of a sophomoric effort.

I don't know for certain if the faults of can be attributed to the translation or if it is th
Fairly short - I read this on the plane back from Russia. Weaving past into present through deftly-constructed flashbacks, Thirst ranks among the best novels about war veterans (in this case, veterans of the First Chechen War) I've read. The prose is simultaneously hard and tender, and quite a bit goes on in the novel though Gelasimov does not seem to place a great deal of momentum behind his narrative. The result is a engrossing novel which displays what one other reviewer fittingly described a ...more
Nov 22, 2011 Kevin rated it liked it
An interesting mostly because of the insight into a different world and culture - post-Soviet Russia and the veterans of the wars in Chechnya.

Having been burned and disfigured by a anti-tank mine in Chechnya, Kostya seems resigned to a life of drinking vodka and occasionally working on apartment rehab projects. But his army friends that survived that battle show up and include him in the search for another from the squad. This forces him to get out and see the world but it also brings him into c
Feb 22, 2014 Joy rated it liked it
This book kind of lost me from the description and what I actually read. I am going to reread it when I have more time to read more than a few paragraphs at one sitting and see if I can pay closer attention..
Dec 02, 2012 Will rated it really liked it
Read the English translation for a Russian Translation course and compared it to the Russian original. I really like this book, it's simple and unpretentious, but with a vivid language and a great sense of empathy for Kostya, Konstantin, the main character, a veteran of the (presumably second) Chechen War, as he wanders around the Moscow region with a friend, running into his estranged dad and drinking his weight in vodka along the way. Well-translated by Marian Schwartz (duh) though there are s ...more
Apr 29, 2012 Emma rated it really liked it
This is written (and well translated) in a spare style that perfectly suits the subject matter, the main character who tells the story, and the environment in which he lives. The "thirst" is for vodka, vast quantities of which are consumed as the pages are turned. The protagonist is a veteran of the war in Chechnya, reunited with his former comrades in arms, with whom he shared a traumatic experience. I don't want to give the story away, but suffice it to say that although it may seem grim and t ...more
Dec 07, 2011 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmmm..... Thirst is a difficult novel to review. If I had a choice it would be closer to 2.5 stars. It's a short novel about a young solider who was disfigured during conflict in Chechnya and a brief period of time where he meets up with his old soldier friends after being a bit of a hermit.

At the end of Thirst I felt a little empty in that I barely got to know the protagonist and while the subject matter is very fertile ground, there is very little meat in the story. It's sparse like the protag
Katharine Harding
Feb 14, 2015 Katharine Harding rated it really liked it
Beautiful, sparse, not much longer than a short story really. It would definitely bear re-reading.
May 24, 2012 Ann rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this quick read. It was like a conversation. Many social implications were highlighted in the conversation but nothing too heavy. The characters felt very real, normal but not typical. Russia seems very similar to the US in this story. I feel the writer has a special talent for telling a story about everyday life in a way that makes you want to keep reading along and beside the characters, yet never diving extremely deep into any character. Living in a time of war with soldiers returni ...more
Warhammer Grantham
Dec 05, 2015 Warhammer Grantham rated it liked it
War-scarred Kostya and his two wartime buddies go to Moscow, looking for their lost friend. Through the vodka-blurred searching efforts, the author reveals bit by bit the accident the binds the four men together, and Kostya history.

Originally translated from Russian. Still a great short read
Jun 24, 2014 Joanna rated it really liked it
I didn't quite get it. But I'm pretty sure I wasn't expected to.
Jan 09, 2014 Sho rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama, kindle-edition
This novel defies description. It is the story of Kostya who drinks a lot of vodka. He is an ex-soldier, a veteran of the war in Chechenya, and some of his comrades. Actually nothing really happens in the book although things from Kostya's past are explained in short flashbacks.

And that is all I can say about it. It's worth a read.
Nov 20, 2011 Trunatrschild rated it really liked it
A short picture on the life of a veteran in the post Soviet Union. It is very Russian, they have a sort of bleak outlook on life. If you like foreign literature, this one will leave you wanting more... it is a short picture on a man settling with himself on what his life is going to be, shutting old doors and opening new. Very elegantly written/translated, my only complaint is that if I hadn't known what it was about from the Amazon blurb, I would have been a little lost, but that is probably th ...more
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 Jim Elkins rated it did not like it
Shelves: russian
Crudely structured, badly written, poorly imagined. Rum, unskilled, without nuance. Like the deliberately shocking scenes in "Deer Hunter" or "Born on the Fourth of July." Hard to imagine Gelasimov is considered a good writer.[return][return]Marek2010 (review below) is right that the book has a warm ending: but it's only one page. The rest is intended to be hard-bitten, tough, real, uncompromising, and it ends up being mawkish, sentimental, and scarred by clichs. ...more
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Andreï Guelassimov est né en 1965 à Irkoutsk. Après des études de lettres, il partà Moscou suivre au Gitis (l'Institut d'études théâtrales) les cours du prestigieux metteur en scène Anatoly Vassiliev. Spécialiste d'Oscar Wilde, il a enseigné à l'université la littérature anglo-américaine. Fox Mulder a une tête de cochon, son premier livre, a été publié en 2001. La Soif (Actes Sud, 2004), son secon ...more
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