70 Following


There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories - Anna Summers, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

This is a really interesting, distinctive short story collection, focusing on domestic life in late Soviet/post-Soviet Russia; most of the stories take place in and around cramped Moscow apartments. Several generations often live together with too little space and too little money, parents often suspect that their adult children are scheming to take ownership of the precious apartment, and when love appears it's imperfect, marked by the characters' own deficiencies, and can't be relied upon to last.

The stories are very short, ranging from 4-18 pages in length, and with generous font and spacing. And the writing style is pared-down and matter-of-fact. I found the stories interesting and enjoyable though, and they certainly give a strong sense of what life was like for regular people in this particular place and time. This is apparently a compilation of stories the author wrote over several decades, but they're remarkably consistent in tone and quality. My favorite was "Like Penelope," and other stand-outs for me were "Ali-Baba" and "Eros's Way," but it doesn't surprise me a bit to see different readers preferring different stories. The translator also did a fantastic job of rendering the stories in common, sometimes biting English, so that it's hard to believe they were translated at all.

I can see why this collection doesn't work for everyone, given that the stories are relatively brief and often bleak. But I think it is worth a read. If for no other reason than that Petrushevskaya's work was banned in Russia even longer than some well-known political works (apparently for portraying too gritty a picture of everyday life)!