With her previous book of shorts, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby, Petrushevskaya was compared to the geniuses of the macabre, like Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King and Nikolai Gogol. The stories in There Once Lived...have earned her comparisons to Tolstoy and Chekhov. While I enjoy the works of both of those authors, her writing most reminds me of the short stories of Alexander Pushkin, often called the father of Russian lit. There is no prettying up the lives of the average Russian. Their stories are simply presented as they are.
In the short A Murky Fate, the protagonist is a single, thirty something who lives with her mother. With apartments being hard to come by, it's not surprising or frowned upon that adults live with their parents, waiting to inherit it when they die. The joy she feels at having at last found a man to spend the evening with her, even if it means asking her mother to leave the studio apartment they share, is palpable. However, her joy is short lived when she realizes that this married man, who's not much to look at and doesn't have much going for himself, barely knows her name. Yet she knows she will forever remember their one night together and spend her days pining for him; sad that she no longer has him, but glad to have known happiness even if it was extremely brief.
Like I said, there's little glamour in Petrushevskaya's shorts, but her stories do cause you to think. Fans of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Chekhov and even Lermontov or Moliere would do well to give this one a read.
Published: January 2013
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.
Pushkin was born into the Russian nobility in Moscow. A remarkable fact about his ancestry is that one great-grandfather of his was brought over as a slave from Africa and had risen to become an aristocrat. Pushkin published his first poem at the age of fifteen, and was widely recognized by the literary establishment by the time of his graduation from the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum
Notoriously touchy about his honour, Pushkin fought a total of twenty-nine duels, and was fatally wounded in such an encounter with Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès. D'Anthès, a French officer serving with the Chevalier Guard Regiment, had been attempting to seduce the poet's wife, Natalya Pushkina. Pushkin's early death at the age of 37 is still regarded as a catastrophe for Russian literature. - Wikipedia
Size: 17,098,242 sq km; 1.8 times the size of the U.S.
Ethnic groups: Russian 79.8%, Tatar 3.8%, Ukrainian 2%, Bashkir 1.2%, Chuvash 1.1%, other or unspecified 12.1%
Languages: Russian (official), many minority languages
Theme: Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii (National Anthem of the Russian Federation)