Mikhail Epstein. Cries in the New Wilderness:
From the Files of the Moscow Institute of Atheism.
Trans. and intr. by Eve Adler. Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2002, 236 pp.
                        (hardcover and paperback)

                        Editorial Reviews

                       Walter Laqueur
                       "Mikhail Epstein is probably the most important figurein
                       Russian literary theory in the post-Bakhtin, post-Lotman

                       Alexander Genis, author of Red Bread
                       "The best example of . . . theological fantasy that
                       strikes a precise equilibrium between search for God and
                       struggle against God."

                       Ilya Kabakov
                       "A completely new view of the spiritual life of Russian
                       society . . . brings to mind the multivoiced novels of

                       Publishers' Weekly
                       ". . . Epstein’s truly unusual reckoning with the
                       disintegration of communism--and ideology itself--is
                       well worth a look."

                       Book Description
                       Inside the disintegrating Soviet Union, Raisa Omarovna
                       Gibaydulina, a professor of scientific atheism at the
                       Moscow Institute of Atheism, compiles a selection of
                       excerpts from the articles, sermons, manifestos, and
                       other writings by members of banned religious sects.
                       Copies of this classified reference manual, The New
                       Sectarianism, are smuggled to the West, where
                       intellectuals attempt to assess the late-Soviet
                       spiritual movements. A record of Gibaydulina’s own
                       spiritual quest is preserved in the notes and letters
                       she writes during the post-Soviet years before her
                       death in April 1997.

                       Such is the form of Mikhail Epstein’s Cries in the New
                       Wilderness, a work of extraordinary artistic and
                       philosophical imagination, begun in Moscow in the
                       mid-1980s and now available for the first time in
                       English translation in an expanded version. Drawing on
                       his own participation in Moscow’s intellectual
                       associations and in expeditions to study popular
                       religious beliefs in southern Russia and Ukraine,Epstein
                       recreates the spiritual experience of a whole Russian
                       generation. His is not a documentary book, however, but
                       a "comedy of ideas," in which he constructs from the
                       voices he hears in the culture around him the religious
                       and philosophical worldviews of his fictional sects:
                       Foodniks and Domesticans, Arkists and Bloodbrothers,
                       Atheans and Good-believers, Steppies and Pushkinians.

                       Cries in the New Wilderness is filled with the voices of
                       these sects, from the mystical Thingwrights and the
                       absurdist Folls to the messianic Khazarists and the
                       doomsday Steppies. As a counterpoint to this medley of
                       comic, grotesque, poetic, banal, poignant, and harrowing
                       voices is the voice of the commentator, Professor
                       Gibaydulina, who struggles to maintain the purity and
                       objectivity of her scientific atheism in the face of an
                       amazing variety of religious experiences. Epstein’s
                       depiction of the inner drama of Gibaydulina’s response
                       to the crumbling of the Soviet Union and her quest for a
                       new, creative atheism adds a tragic note to his
                       polyphonic work

                       An award-winning essayist and critic, Mikhail Epstein
                       has been compared to Jorge Luis Borges for his literary
                       inventiveness and to Walter Benjamin for his acute
                       observation of cultural phenomena. Transcending genres
                       and disciplines, Cries in the New Wilderness is a
                       brilliantly imaginative work of fiction that illuminates
                       the spiritual condition of the USSR as it reveals
                       unsuspected affinities between Russian and American
                       culture. In the mirror of Soviet society, we recognize
                       our own enthusiasm for alternative spiritual
                       experiences, our worship of technology, our doomsday
                       cults. We may also recognize that we ourselves are
                       participants in many of the sects Mikhail Epstein
                       describes, sects that seem at first fantastic and
                       outlandish, but prove to be the religious basis of our
                       own lives.

                       About the Author
                       Mikhail Epstein (Epshtein) was born in Moscow in 1950
                       and graduated from Moscow State University summa cum
                       laude in philology in 1972. He was the founder and
                       director of the Laboratory of Contemporary Culture in
                       Moscow. In 1990, Epstein moved to the United States,
                       where he spent a year in Washington, D.C., as a fellow
                       at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. He is now
                       Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Cultural Theory and
                       Russian Literature at Emory University.

                       Epstein’s recent books in English include After the
                       Future: Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Contemporary
                       Russian Culture; Russian Postmodernism: New
                       Perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture (with two
                       coauthors); and Transcultural Experiments: Russian and
                       American Models of Creative Communication (with Ellen
                       Berry). He is the author of 16 books and approximately
                       400 essays and articles, translated into 14 languages.

                      In 2000, Mikhail Epstein was the recipient of the Liberty
                       Prize, established in 1999 and awarded once a year to
                       prominent Russian cultural figures who have made an
                       outstanding contribution to American society. He has
                       also received, among many other awards, the 1995
                       Social Innovations Award from the Institute for Social
                       Inventions for his elecvtronic Bank of New Ideas
                       (London) and  the 1991 Andrei Belyi
                       Prize (St. Petersburg) for the
                       best work in literary criticism and scholarship.

                       Eve Adler is professor of Classics at Middlebury College
                       in Vermont. She has authored (with Vladimir Shlyakhov)
                       Russian Slang & Colloquial Expressions and translated
                       from German Philosophy and Law by Leo Strauss.