This stark account of an ordinary Russian citizen subjected to ongoing bureaucratic interrogation begs, but does not earn, comparison with Kafka's The Trial. Its nameless narrator speculates on the motives and personalities of his accusers (The One Who Asks the Questions, The Pretty Woman, The Proletarian Firebrand), dazedly assesses his own political correctness or incorrectness (he knows he's failed to ""make the leap out of the myths and structures of Soviet life""), and fantasizes forthcoming tortures in the Cellar below the room dominated by that Table with Decanter (to which he is summoned again and again). Glancing references to his brother's schizophrenia, an intemperate remark he once made while waiting in a long line, a fracas caused when he angrily kicked a car that nearly ran him down . . . these and similar trivia persuade him that he's being tried for the crime of simple human imperfections. That's all that happens, in what's really little more than a very attenuated short story. Nevertheless, Makanin's ""novel"" won ""Russia's Booker Prize"" (whatever that is). One wonders why.