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4.26  ·  Rating details ·  6,527 ratings  ·  870 reviews
It is the late fifteenth century and a village healer in Russia is powerless to help his beloved as she dies in childbirth, unwed and without having received communion. Devastated and desperate, he sets out on a journey in search of redemption. But this is no ordinary journey: it is one that spans ages and countries, and which brings him face-to-face with a host of unforge ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 13th 2015 by Oneworld Publications (first published 2012)
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Andrea I believe the anachronisms are intentional, as one of the themes of the book is relevance of time to our perception of reality. At one point Arseny an…moreI believe the anachronisms are intentional, as one of the themes of the book is relevance of time to our perception of reality. At one point Arseny and Ambrose discuss that time is just an invention of our brain as it cannot process all of the existence at once. According to the novel everything that's ever happened, is happening, and will happen is actually existing simultaneously. That is why Ambrose can see glimpses of the future. The subtle anachronistic references like plastic bottles, and some modern slang, are supposed to reinforce that idea. I hope that helps. (less)
Erin They are not just 20th century prophesies. The text is littered with subtle references to other moments in time: a mention of Pushkin's death at 37 (a…moreThey are not just 20th century prophesies. The text is littered with subtle references to other moments in time: a mention of Pushkin's death at 37 (and assessment about why it might have happened) without actual mention of Pushkin's name, a vision of the monks traveling to Solovetz Monastery in the 19th century by boat, and more. The movement through time is clearly connected to Ambrogio's frequent philosophizing about the limits of linear time versus an other-worldly or eternal perspective of time.(less)

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Average rating 4.26  · 
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Vit Babenco
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Once upon a time… Once upon a time everything was possible…
And then there is the fish with many legs. No matter what color stone it swims up to, it takes on that color: if it is white, it turns white, if it is green, it turns green. Some people, child, are the same: they are Christians with Christians and infidels with infidels.

Laurus is an unexpected conjunction of magic realism and hierography and the book is tragically poetical.
Ustina was not separate from his love for her. Ustina was love an
A book in a genre I've hardly read since my age hit double figures: stories of the saints. Laurus, the life of a fictional fifteenth-century Russian folk healer, holy fool, pilgrim and eventual monk is essentially an invented example. Baptised Arseny, the protagonist adopts a number of names through different phases of his life, culminating in 'Laurus'. Miracles and prophetic visions are presented as a matter of course, as in the life of a saint, not the mode of fantasy or magic realism familiar ...more
Lisa Hayden Espenschade
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I loved this book when I read it last year and love it even more now that I'm translating it. Vodolazkin's medieval setting, humor, and mix of contemporary language and old language make for a fun and pretty indescribable book about a man who's a healer, holy fool, pilgrim, and monk. ...more
I hope this doesn't come across as meaningless hyperbole - this book is extraordinary and the translation is brilliant. There are some fine detailed reviews here already, notably those by Antonomasia ( and Paul Fulcher (, and I accidentally left my copy on a train just after finishing it, so I'll confine myself to a brief overview.

This is the story of Arseny, a humble 15th century Russian who begins life as the orp
lark benobi
When I got to the end of Laurus I thought: "this is the best book I've ever read." I've had that feeling before with other novels and I hope I will have it again in the future but even so Laurus will remain one of the most perfect and memorable experiences of my reading life.

It probably changed my experience to have read "The Confession of St. Patrick" before reading Laurus. Unlike Augustine's Roman intellectualism, St. Patrick's Confession describes a chaotic reality where the spiritual and th
Lynne King
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a surprising, deep and mystical novel; set largely in medieval Russia but branching out to different places and sometimes different times. We know that Arseny was born in 1440 and was brought up by his grandfather, Christofer. When his grandfather dies, Arseny becomes the local healer and, one day, brings into his humble home a young woman – Ustina. When she dies in childbirth, he begins a life travelling and trying to make atonement for her death.

You will have to decide whether Arseny,
Paul Fulcher
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"There were, however, those who did not want to come to terms with death but also reflected on ways to overcome it, even in the case of a universal end. It was among these people that a rumour began to spread, saying Amvrosy possessed the elixir of immortality. That Amvrosy, when he was still Arseny, had allegedly brought that elixir from Jerusalem.
Fearing that there would not be enough elixir for everyone when the time came, some people settled by the monastery walls and built themselves so
This is an impressive read. In 15th Century Rus', Arseny becomes a healer, spiritualist and holy man. The book charts the four parts of his life - as an orphan living with his Grandfather who is also a healer and then lives with Ustina who dies in child birth, he then wanders and becomes a holy man, he journeys to Jerusalem, years later he returns to his birth place.
Through this there is humour, naturopathy, old language, debates on time and when the world will end, prophecies, jumps to future e
A new Medieval Russian novel! When I first read about Laurus in a favorite book catalog I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was. A romantic (in the old sense of the word) travelogue as the Russians write so well; new and old at the same time. C.S. Lewis would be thrilled. He might even bend his one-old-book-for-every-new-book rule in this case.

Laurus is about one man’s life’s quest for atonement. Along his journey Laurus changed his name four times and each change represented a radical shif
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mother-rus
We simply need to remember that only the material world needs time,

There was only a time, maybe once or twice when I earnestly considered the idea of Grace. Both instances were fleeting and predictably linked to a woman. The path I tread isn't geared to such. I watched an interview with Gunter Grass yesterday, where he ventured his preference for Camus over Sartre. When asked why, the master responded, I don't harbor any faith for God but I do worship Saint Sisyphus.

Despite the blurb on the fr
I was very surprised to realize that this book has been published only recently, because the writing is consistent with an end of the 18th century style, and not only in its mimetic qualities, but rather in its actual construction. The author chose a medieval character and a travel across Russia towards the Holy Land in order to talk about God and the belief in God. The writing is exquisite, an absolute pleasure to read, and the characters are very, very nicely developed.

P.S.: Many thanks should
Matt Sheffield
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars, 2015, fiction
This book was not what I expected and my expectations of its quality were high. So when I began to travel along with the pilgrim, Arseny, I was initially left scratching my head at all the seemingly strange events that did not seem to be building toward anything. But then I read this quote from the author, Vodolazkin: "There are two ways to write about modernity: the first is by writing about the things we have; the second, by writing about those things we no longer have." "Laurus" is a book abo ...more
Caro the Helmet Lady
I loved it. Simple and brilliant, this novel is one of those you don't get to read every day. It's one huge metaphor of time and human life itself, but at the same time it's a chronicle of life of the particular human. And it breaks your heart and makes you smile at the same time. The language is easy and beautiful, and the trick of using Old Russian language mixed together with modern words gives an extraordinary effect, sometimes puzzling, sometimes comical.

Strongly recommended.
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russia
IT’S HARD TO WRITE saintly characters. Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov is the least interesting of the brothers. Everybody reads the Inferno, but how many make it to Paradise? Yet Eugene Vodolazkin, whose second novel, Laurus, won both Russia’s Big Book and Yasnaya Polyana prizes in 2013, succeeds gloriously, giving us not just goodliness but an actual saint — a fictional wonderworker in the 15th century. A scholar of medieval literature at St. Petersburg’s Pushkin House, the Institute for Rus ...more
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To say I took immense delight in absorbing its pages would be still poor to render. I just love it. Worthwhile 100%! I will come back to it. It has that power to convince someone. An unforgetable experience!
Mar 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
I know the one star rating looks bad, and I don't think this is a BAD book; but, as the stars say, I "did not like it." I was drawn in by the cover art, I suppose, and also the idea that this was a deep, character-driven myth-steeped novel with themes like redemption, time, human connection, etc. Which, I guess, isn't completely inaccurate, it's just that where I would usually like those things, it didn't work for me here.

I suppose the simplest way of describing this story is that it is set in t
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
An unusual and interesting, but finally unsuccessful book, I think.

Laurus has been compared by at least one critic to The Name of the Rose and by another to (of all things) Canterbury Tales, but it seems to have nothing in common with these beyond the fact that it too is set in the Middle Ages. As a fictional portrait of a medieval saint, Laurus might be better compared with Frederick Buechner’s Godric. As a work of fiction written by a medievalist (and hence with a whiff of authenticity to it),
Z. F.
"When Diogenes was asked how to live with the truth, he answered: Do as with fyre: do not go so exceadyngely close that it will burn, but do not go so farre away that the colde will reache you."

The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Middle Ages were not like today. You could barely walk out your front door without witnessing a miracle, and hideous monsters dwelt just beyond the farthest place you'd ever personally traveled to. Devils had their clawed hands in absolutely everything, angels were only slightly less commonplace,
May 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to LindaJ^ by: no one - the cover called
What a trip! I loved this book but how to describe why. Well, first there is the gorgeous dust jacket - there are some books, like some wines, that just have to be bought because of cover/label. And when you start with a good impression, you have a positive frame of mind right from the start. The cover, besides being red, has the look of an icon to it. And that created the perfect mindset to start this book which is riddled with orthodoxy, i.e., the Orthodox Church. And I do so love icons. I onc ...more
Lee Klein
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 rounded up. The "Journeys" section really lagged for me, even if Ambrogio's presentiments added a cool flavor, as well as the spatio-temporal diversity, and the section ended tragically, grippingly well. It seemed like weeks reading those pages, whereas the opening with the grandfather, the section with Ustina, the holy fool section, and the end all crushed. Don't have too much to say at this point. Opening it definitely felt like immersion in a very much existent 15th-century otherworld. Im ...more
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
Laurus by Evgenij Vodolazkin, translated by Lisa C. Hayden, is the story of Arseny, a fictional fifteenth-century Russian folk healer, holy man, mystic, and pilgrim. Orphaned at a young age, he lives with his grandfather, Christofer, who teaches him to heal the sick through prayer, a healing hand, and traditional folk remedies using plants and herbs.

When Christofer dies, Arseny assumes the role of village healer. He experiences distinct stages in his life, each of which corresponds to a change i
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wanted to give this book 5 stars, but the focus was too much on Arseny's attempt to save his soul and the soul of someone else by doing good works. I'd compare this novel to Eco's The Name of the Rose (although this book isn't a mystery) and Buechner's Godric (although this book isn't really about a saint).

Ralph Wood said (Oct. 2016) that this book provides a good example of a medieval conception of time. See comments at The New Yorker and the Circe Institute. Rod Dreher calls the ending perfe
Joy D
In the words of Monty Python, “And now for something completely different,” Laurus is an experimental novel well off the beaten path. It is literary historical fiction set in 15th century medieval Russia that follows the life of an herbal healer, doctor, and mystic who takes various names on his journey to sainthood. After his parents die of the plague, Arseny is brought up by his herbalist grandfather, who teaches him the healing arts. He becomes renowned in the region for his miraculous abilit ...more
Cindy Rollins
May 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017

"There is vanity in excess penance. You must have sustenance -Sr Monica Joan-Call the Midwife

I am afraid Arseny found the vanity of repentance.

I am not Orthodox but since I have friends who are I am hesitant to be too critical lest I hurt their feelings. Did I enjoy reading this? Yes. I liked the style and the flow. I enjoyed reading about someone's life even though fictional and I liked Arseny-Laurus. I especially liked the idea that his name changed over and over again because he was diffe
Tim McIntosh
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Unlike any book I've ever read. Reviewers compare it to Eco's The Name of the Rose or Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical realism. Yes, those comparisons are valid. Laurus flits around the timeline in an unpredictable way — zooming from the late medieval cemetery to a helicopter planting a huge cross atop a church; the cumulative effect is a very magical, porous narrative that connects myth with reality with rumor with sainthood.

The protagonist — the heartbroken Arseny — has that most rare of liter
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simply, a masterpiece.
Horia Bura
One of the best and most powerful novels I have ever read, about a memorable character, virtuous without his will, naturally modest and a classic example of decency, tolerance and personal sacrifice.

As it very rarely happens, I have failed to identify any flaws in this novel, so I place it in the category of epic masterpieces, and the fact that the author is a contemporary one makes this all the more valuable and meritorious.
Jul 01, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could say something else besides the excruciating ways this book played with my attention span, curiosity and me infantile, but my mind is just not ready enough for this orthodox mumbo-jumbo, search for meaning crap and pure existential bullshit that some consider worth pondering on. I would have gotten more satisfaction reading my dish washing machine manual!
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
Pretty amazing book - has everything a good book needs - history, fantasy, philosophy, action, romance, character development, language. Will want to read more by Vodolazkin.
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Alternate spellings: Evgenij Vodolazkin, Evgheni Vodolazkin, Jevgenij Vodolazkin

Eugene Vodolazkin is a Russian scholar and author. He has worked at Russian Academy of Sciences and been awarded fellowships from the Toepfer Foundation and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He has written for First Things. He lives with his family in St. Petersburg.

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The last five years of world history have been nothing if not...eventful. When living in interesting times, there's nothing better for...
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“Arsenius the Great: I have often regretted the things I have said, but I have never regretted my silence.” 27 likes
“So you say faith is not enough for you and you want knowledge, too. But knowledge does not involve spiritual effort; knowledge is obvious. Faith assumes effort. Knowledge is repose and faith is motion.” 18 likes
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