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Away from the Dead

Away from the Dead

226 pages
Published:   September 5, 2023
Fiction  /  Novels  /  Historical Fiction
Paperback:   9781773103105    $24.95

Longlisted, Scotiabank Giller Prize

Violence is the domain of both the rich and poor. Or so it seems in early 20th-century Ukraine during the tumult of the Russian Revolution.

As anarchists, Bolsheviks, and the White Army all come and go, each claiming freedom and justice, David Bergen embeds his readers into the lives of characters connected through love, family, and loyalty. Lehn, a bookseller south of Kiev, deserts the army and writes poetry to his love back home; Sablin, an adopted Mennonite-Ukrainian stableboy, runs with the anarchists only to discover that love and the planting of crops is preferable to killing; Inna, a beautiful young peasant, tries to stop a Mennonite landowner from stealing her child. In a world of violence, Sablin, Lehn, and Inna learn to love and hate and love again, hoping, against all odds, that one can turn away from the dead.

In this beautifully crafted novel, David Bergen takes us to a place where chaos reigns, where answers come from everywhere and nowhere, and where both the beauty and horror of humanity are on full display.
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David Bergen is the author of numerous acclaimed novels and short-story collections, including The Time In Between, winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and Out of Mind, winner of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. Away from the Dead is his thirteenth book of fiction. He lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 


Longlisted: Scotiabank Giller Prize


“Try to pause, please, and find some stillness to read and appreciate this beautiful book. Though the historical sweep of the story is massive and heartbreaking, Bergen’s prose remains exquisitely focused and pure. Every sentence is a small miracle of literary protection, holding back the bloody tide of the twentieth century, while tenderly holding on to what is most precious. Away from the Dead is a masterpiece, the work of a true artist operating at the highest level of his craft.” — Alexander MacLeod, author of Animal Person

“David Bergen is one of this country’s finest storytellers. What elevates and distinguishes his already fine work is a rare and extraordinary sensibility, an ability to draw on the well of community and mine the profound in the lives of ordinary people tossed about in the tumult of history. Bergen’s humanism breaks the heart and honours it.” — Noah Richler, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About War

“Set in a moment of immense volume and violence, David Bergen’s quiet unfolding of multiple upended lives during the Russian Revolution is a nuanced meditation on the mechanics of wanting. Behind the immense restraint of Bergen’s beautifully crafted sentences, there is an overflow of life, a cast of characters so deeply human in their desires and failings. Away from the Dead is a deceptively stunning novel, a testament to the resurrective power of love against what history might otherwise obliterate, written by one of Canada’s best.” — Omar El Akkad, author of What Strange Paradise

“Memorable, emotional, and thought-provoking.” — Midwest Review of Books

“With spare prose, Bergen points to the fragility of existence — the ever-present hum of violence and the unpredictable threat of death. While the author doesn’t look away from the horrors of war, his novel invites us to be fully alive in the moment, tethered by small things that are important nevertheless.” — British Columbia Review

“I was fascinated by the way David Bergen’s often short, spare, straight-forward, rapid-fire sentences could become the vehicle for so effectively conveying mood and personality and emotion and horror.” — MaryLou Driedger, author of Lost on the Prairie and Sixties Girl

“Every sentence in this novel is a creation. David’s prose is understated, and his storytelling is larger than life.” — Miramichi Reader

“Bergen conveys this sense of random chance through its opposite — though control and caution and craft.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“[H]is meticulous, understated prose is weighted with implicit grief at the pointless suffering of ordinary people who want only to “live quietly,” a lament as relevant for Ukraine’s present as for its past.” — Literary Review of Canada