The Sweet Life

pyotr magnus nedov zuckerleben
February 2013 / 368pp

This book is outside of the five-year window for guaranteed assistance with English language translation. We suggest getting in touch with the relevant funding body for an informal conversation about the possibility of support. Please refer to to our  recommendations page for books that are currently covered by our funding guarantee.


The action in Pyotr Magnus Nedov’s debut novel is split between Italy and the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova. The novel opens in 2011 as we join the mysterious Tolyan Andreewitsch in his quest to locate a missing Georgian tea tin. Having reached Abruzzo in his Ford Transit minibus, he finds his efforts thwarted by a suicidal teenage couple who have recently lost their jobs at a local sugar factory. Suddenly Andreewitsch is confronted with an altogether more vital problem: he must find a way of keeping the young lovers alive.

Luckily, he has an ace up his sleeve: a tale of youthful derring-do, which takes place in the industrial city of Donduşeni. The action cuts to 1991 where, in an increasingly fractured Soviet Union, the young speculator Pitirim Tutunaru dreams of a carefree life in Italy. His ticket to pre-fiscal-crisis paradise rests upon finding the forty tons of sugar owned by factory director Hlebnik, who is presumed to have emigrated to the U.S. Having achieved this initial aim, Pitirim is surprised to discover that Hlebnik has not only been moonlighting as the President of the Donduşeni Committee for Sobriety but is using this status as a cover for illegally distilling schnapps in his dacha. With the assistance of a motley crew of dreamers, academics and artists, Pitirim hopes to carry on the work of the erstwhile sugar factory director and relocate to Italy on the profits. So far, so good. But it soon becomes clear that the road west is paved with many obstacles, among them petrol shortages, nationwide power cuts and the presence of a group of black marketeers eager to make the distillery their own. How will the story end? In 2011, Tolyan Andreewitsch continues the story, hoping the answer will imbue his teenage travelling companions with a newfound zest for life.

This is a stylish, original first novel, which cleverly juxtaposes the disintegration of the Soviet Union with the European financial crisis. In so doing, it adds a layer of complexity to the wry, knowing narrative tone. Nedov’s writing calls to mind the work of Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov, whose darkly comic novels about the post Sovietera (some involving penguins) have met with widespread critical acclaim in the Anglophone world. The Sweet Life is an inspirational debut from a talented young author.

press quotes

‘He tells of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tremendous chutzpah of people ready to do anything to survive. The narration is humorous, but presented with heart and poetry.’– Norddeutscher Rundfunk

‘With pace and wit, Pyotr Magnus Nedov interweaves two stories to the soundtrack of the recent changes in Europe.’– Lausch

about the author

Pyotr Magnus Nedov was born in the Soviet Union in 1982 and lives in Cologne. He grew up in Moldavia, Romania and Austria. He studied Celtic culture, French literature, and film in Paris, Moscow, Montreal, Vienna, and Cologne. He has a PhD in film studies and has worked as an archaeologist on the excavation site around the city hall square in Cologne.

rights information

DuMont Buchverlag GmbH & Co. KG
Amsterdamer Sr. 192
50735 Köln, Germany
Tel: +49-221-224 1942
Contact: Judith Habermas 

DuMont Buchverlag was founded in 1956. Stressing the link between literature and art, the firm focuses both on these subjects and also, more recently, on general non-fiction. Its authors include John Cheever, John von Düffel, Keith Gessen, Michel Houellebecq, Helmut Krausser, Martin Kluger, Judith Kuckart, Thomas Kling, Annette Mingels, Haruki Murakami, Edward St. Aubyn, Tilman Rammstedt, and Dirk Wittenborn. The art list covers high quality illustrated books dealing with periods from the Renaissance up until today, monographs on single artists, such as Botticelli, Velazquez, Kokoschka, Max Ernst, Gerhard Richter and Neo Rauch, and overviews of (for instance) contemporary Chinese art, as well as design, photography and art theory.

translation assistance

Applications for adult fiction or children’s books should be made to the Austrian Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport in good time before the book goes to print.

share this recommendation

Share this on twitter, facebook or via mail.

All recommendations from Spring 2013