Set twenty-odd years from now, it opens on Patient Number One—Vladimir Putin, largely forgotten in his presidential dacha, serviced by a small coterie of house staff, drifting in and out of his memories of the past. His nurse, charged with the twenty-four-hour care of his patient, is blissfully unaware that his colleagues are using their various positions to skim money, in extraordinarily creative ways, from the top of their employer’s seemingly inexhaustible riches.But when a family tragedy means that the nurse suddenly needs to find a fantastical sum of money fast, the dacha’s chef lets him in on the secret world of backhanders and bribes going on around him, and opens his eyes to a brewing war between the staff and the new housekeeper, the ruthless new sheriff in town.A brilliantly cast modern-day Animal Farm, The Senility of Vladimir P. is a coruscating political fable that shows, through an honest man slipping his ethical moorings, how Putin has not only bankrupted his nation economically, but has also diminished it culturally and spiritually.
In Honig's scathing, dexterous debut, set about two decades in the future, former Russian president Vladimir Putin spends his final days in the throes of dementia at a dacha outside Moscow. Everyone in the dictator's waning sphere of influence the estate's quarrelsome chef, the drivers in the car pool, the security detail, the conniving new housekeeper schemes to benefit from Putin's vast, ill-gotten wealth. "They were all the same, every single person in the dacha," Putin's longtime caretaker, Sheremetev, muses as he considers his own enigmatic honesty, which led indirectly to his wife's death several years before and his eventual estrangement from his son, Vasily. "The only thing they cared about was how long the feast would go on, like fish gorging themselves on a whale's flesh, even while the whale was still alive." When Sheremetev receives news that his nephew has been jailed for speaking out against the current regime, he desperately wants to help the young man avoid a lengthy prison sentence. But the corruption at the heart of the Russian kleptocracy runs deeper than even Sheremetev a rank amateur in such matters can imagine. In a novel reminiscent of the meticulous visual art of a Robert Altman ensemble film, Honig, a former surgeon who lives in England, showcases a keen eye for characters and set pieces and a pitch-perfect ear for satire. The flawed, naive Sheremetev, caught in the push and pull of his own outmoded beliefs, is at the center of this scintillating work of social commentary.