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Merle

Merle

Hurramabad

Hurramabad - Andrei Volos Hurramabad is a collection of short stories set in Tajikistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The original, Russian-language version contains 13 stories, of which 7 are translated into English in this volume. Hurramabad is also the name of the fictional city in Tajikistan where most of the stories take place.

This is a grim collection: the stories are set during a civil war, and most of the protagonists are ethnic Russians who now find themselves unwelcome in the country they consider home. But despite its obscurity, it is a perfectly good collection. The stories are interesting and well-structured, and, while it may take a couple of pages for readers to orient themselves, the translation is quite readable. Little is explicitly spelled out for the reader, but there is a sense of the culture and the historical period.

And yet, for me, the stories work better individually than in concert. There’s a great deal of similarity among them: all are set in the same time and place; all deal with death and displacement; five of the seven feature men moving in a society of men, in which few strong bonds between characters exist. And the individual characters are too similar to be memorable. Ultimately, the stories begin to feel repetitive (even though the plotlines and specific scenarios are different) rather than complementing or building on one another.

Again, this is not bad writing, and if you are interested in the setting, you should give it a try. But while interesting enough, it is not a book that inspired much response from me.