The Last Hiccup: A Novel
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Set in 1930s Russia, this darkly humorous, tragic, and ultimately heroic novel tells the tale of Vladimir, an eight-year-old Russian boy suddenly stricken with a chronic case of the hiccups. He soon finds himself spirited away to a Moscow hospital by the famous physician Sergei Namestikov, who puts him through a series of extraordinaryand often bizarretreatments in an effort to find a cure. When Sergei’s chief medical rival, the brilliant Alexander Afiniganov, discovers that beneath Vladimir’s blank eyes lurks a pure, unbridled evil, he takes steps to remove the child from polite society. Abandoned by everyone but his hiccups, Vladimir decides to return to the world he once knew, encountering many strange people and situations along the way. Funny, poignant, and surreal, this is a close look at the nature of good and evil filled with a dazzling cast of characters.
the counter. When Sergei had purchased coffee here less than thirty minutes earlier, the man had been in good spirits. He even chatted with Sergei about current events and jokingly baited him into banter about the extraordinary success of the local women’s ice-hockey team. Now the shopkeeper’s face was drenched in sweat, his eyes sodden with the beginnings of an incapacitating fear. Sergei stepped forward and, like a prisoner anticipating lashes from the whip, the man trembled, his arms clasped
add). When his award-winning paper on phobias was published, Alexander dismissed Sergei’s moaning over the timing of its release. He wrote that paper for a personal sense of pride, not the satisfaction of besting someone else. Even when he bedded Asenka, it wasn’t to hurt Sergei. Alexander did so because fornicating with a beautiful, alluring woman was what a great man would do. Now, despite his sympathy for Sergei, Alexander had to do what was right in the case of young Vladimir. Though
carved not in wood but in stone.” Usurpet leaned forward. The flames flickered in the whites of his eyes. “I, for one, will die before I allow my great country to be burned to the ground.” Vladimir watched Usurpet during the meal. The farmer was a messy eater — he stabbed his knife haphazardly, without precision, seemingly without forethought, into the bulk or length of the side of beef loin he intended to divide. He gnashed his teeth as well. Usurpet’s yellow incisors exploded up and
woman in a decade. Ileana’s voice was gentle and soft. In the distance the tavern door closed, and now it was the two old schoolmates sitting alone in the snow. Vladimir rubbed his jaw with his hand. His legs still felt like two slabs of rubber. “I thought of you while I was away.” “Have you been hiccupping this whole time?” she said. Vladimir nodded. “Does it hurt?” “It does since Pavel punched me in the face.” Ileana laughed. Vladimir laughed too, a short little chortle
Russian. Vladimir removed his wool cap and placed his gun on the table. “I need your help,” he said. twenty-two “Vladimir?” “Vladimir?” Vladimir looked up from his seat in the lobby of Markus’s office. Hovering in the air was the pointed, thin face of Ilvana Strekov. To her side was Markus. Ilvana’s eyes were slightly droopy. She had her hand on Vladimir’s shoulder and had been shaking him gently. Markus, for his part, was tapping one of his canes against Vladimir’s shin.