You know how sometimes you order something and then you forget about it, so it comes as a surprise (if not an actual shock) when it arrives cos you weren’t expecting it? That’s the experience I just had with this, got an email about it the other day to announce it was now sitting in my Kindle awaiting my attention. And I was baffled, cos I had (and have) no memory of ordering this… “Seven Hanged? What the fuck is that?” I thought, and a quick check indicated I had indeed placed a pre-release order for the thing back in January… but what was it that inspired me to do so? Looking at the book description left me perplexed and, frankly, reading it has only left me more so. Andreyev was evidently one of the major figures of Russian literature in the late Tsarist period, and an active contributor to political discourse with books like this (he would welcome the end of Tsardom in 1917 but not the advent of the Bolsheviks later that year). This particular work is a short novel looking at how seven people facing execution—five of them for the same attempted assassination of a minister, two for separate crimes—face up to the fact of their impending judicially mandated deaths. It’s nothing if not bleak stuff, and frankly I’m damned if I can work out what drew me to it; it’s uningratiating and unlikable, and though we’re obviously meant to sympathise with the titular hanged men and women, I found something so remote about them that I found it hard to actually do so. Really had trouble connecting with this.
Seven Hanged (Leonid Andreyev)