Russian Hide and Seek (1980) is set in the year 2035 and imagines an England that had been forcibly occupied by the Soviet Union since the mid-1980s. Amis’s fantastical future is of course shaped by the world he knew in the late 1970s.
For all its title, Russian Hide and Seek is a novel about England far more than it is a novel about Russia.
Whereas Donald James —writing The Fall of the Russian Empire (1982) around the same time as Russian Hide and Seek came out— focused with notable accuracy on likely developments in Russia’s near-future, Amis has little to say about Russia and a little more to say obliquely about the declining state of the United Kingdom.
Part one of this review is here.
As The Senility of Vladimir P. progresses, both the story element and the Russia-in-fiction element get progressively more serious. Nikolai Sheremetev, full-time nurse to a dementia-afflicted ex-president Putin, is forced by events to question his good and simple approach to caring for his patient.
And these events are not simply stuff that happens, but come to be seen —as the scales of good-hearted naivety fall from Sheremetev’s eyes— to be endemic in the Russia that Putin created.
Part two of this review is here.
The Senility of Vladimir P. is a cleverly crafted, multilayered novella that works on a number of different levels. If you had never heard of Vladimir Putin, you might well still be engaged by the story of an honest man, Nikolai Sheremetev, in a corrupt world. Sheremetev is drowning in a dilemma, the only escape from which appears to be thieving and bribery.
That the honest man in question is the full-time carer of an aged and dementia-stricken Vladimir Putin creates a conceit that allows The Senility of Vladimir P. to explore the Putin era in Russia and its legacy.