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Vital Signs

Elena Chudinova: Telling the Truth

In the autumn of 2005, I moved to New York City, breaking out of the green confines of bucolic and insufferably boring upstate New York to continue college.  I wandered into one of the numerous Russian bookstores on Brighton Beach—a noisy, dirty, and delicious corner of the Soviet Union, preserved on the southernmost tip of Brooklyn.  A book’s glossy cover jumped out at me from the shelves.  It showed a turbaned, bearded Mohammedan, mouth wide open in the call to prayer, against a dystopian landscape of Paris, full of onion-domed mosques, with the Eiffel Tower crowned by a Muslim crescent.  In the coming days, I devoured the book on the subway under the curious gazes of Brooklyn’s babushkas.  The novel’s title was Mechet Parizhskoi Bogomateri (The Notre Dame de Paris Mosque) by Russian writer, publicist, and poet Elena Chudinova.

Chudinova’s magnum opus invites the readers to a Paris of a.d. 2048.  This is a city ruled by the likes of sharia judge Malik, a Wahhabist, and Imam Abdulwahid.  Here, Malik’s burka-clad wife, Zeinab, crosses the Pont de Emirates bridge over the Seine on her way to the Champs-Élysées and interrupts her shopping spree to watch an elderly Catholic get stoned to death for making wine to celebrate Mass.  In this Paris, the Christians are driven into ghettos, with the final massacre looming...

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