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About Alexander Pokrovsky

Alexander Pokrovsky has written seventeen books based on his twenty years in the Baltic navy. These are mainly cycles of satirical stories, both funny and frightening, about the trials and trivialities of life on a nuclear submarine. Based on the author’s own experiences as an officer in the navy, they show the sorry state of these underwater barracks that sometimes turn into common graves. Pokrovsky’s picture of life in the Russian navy is less harsh than its prototype: he intentionally avoids traumatizing the reader, yet for those unfamiliar with the navy his stories make your flesh creep.

Born in 1952 Pokrovsky grew up in Baku on the Caspian Sea where he enrolled in the Caspian Navy School and upon graduation was sent to the Northern Fleet. There he served on atomic submarines and also started writing as a way of “relieving the boredom of night watches”. By the time of his discharge from the navy he had some 500 unpublished but widely circulating stories to his name. Today he has more than a thousand.

In Russia, his books are reprinted in hundreds of thousands copies. Pokrovsky is particularly popular in St Petersburg – where more than a million people used to serve in the navy – and other cities on the sea.

English translations of his stories are available in Glas papar books Nos. 34 and 42.

“In ‘Sea Stories’ by Alexander Pokrovsky Russian dysfunctionality takes absurd, comical, and sometimes even tragicomic forms. Indeed, the Army and the Navy at the end of the Soviet era had become a sort of satirical metaphor for the entire Soviet system, left in the gap between utopian ideology and flawed lives.” – Wasafiri Literary Magazine

Review in Russia Profile:

“Alexander Pokrovsky’s ‘Sea Stories’ feature characters more buffoonish than thuggish. The publisher’s assertion that the author’s picture of life in the Russian navy is ‘less harsh than its prototype’ is most certainly the case. Pokrovsky served for twenty years in the navy, and his stories are amusing and surprisingly pithy. The navy of which Pokrovsky writes appears as deeply unprofessional and hopelessly underfunded. When I first started reading Pokrovsky’s stories I felt somewhat alarmed by them, although not for the thuggery and ineptitude they reveal. Alongside Anna Politkovskaya’s tales of extreme brutality in the Russian services and Arkady Babchenko’s visceral writing on serving in Chechnya, Pokrovsky’s humorously grotesque tales read as almost sacrilegious. They, however, find a very large readership. Amid the buffoonery there is much that is serious. At the heart of Pokrovsky’s stories is a sense of impotence; impotence in the face of a cruel, amoral system in which an officer or captain might find himself resorting to violence simply because it is within his power to do so. Pokrovsky’s stories must be unique in their field in that they both amuse and illuminate.

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