The eponymous heroine of Vadim Levental’s award-winning debut novel is a movie director for whom “doubling the world is the only way to make the world cognizable”. This desire to understand life by copying it in art drives Masha, in an opening chapter entitled “Invention of a Storyline”, on a journey from provincial village life towards film-industry stardom.

Far from a typical rags-to-riches fable, this is a thought-provoking account of an outsider desperate to be the auteur of her own existence, and nothing — not love, birth or death — will deter her. Straddling the fields of philosophy and fiction, Levental persistently queries the distinction between artifice and reality, with a disenchanted Masha finally giving her own reflection the middle finger.

Masha Regina, by Vadim Levental, translated by Lisa Hayden, Oneworld, RRP£14.99, 288 pages

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