Present Imperfect: Stories by Russian Women

Present Imperfect: Stories by Russian Women

Present Imperfect: Stories by Russian Women

Present Imperfect: Stories by Russian Women

Synopsis

The selections in this anthology overturn Soviet-era taboos with a vengeance. First published in the aftermath of Mikhail Gorbachev's liberalizing reforms, these stories revel in the basic commonalities of human experience, even as they reassert a peculiarly Russian belief in the spiritual, mystical, and supernatural. They satirize Soviet literary canons while exploring a full gamut of styles, from neorealism to magico-folkloric fantasy. Included in the volume are works by well-known pioneers of the "new women's prose" as well as by less familiar talents. Bold in thematic conception and stylistic experimentation, their stories are socially engaged- in the classic Russian literary tradition- and yet at the same time intensely personal. While many of these writers share a feminist outlook, their perspectives are vastly disparate and often steeped in a peculiarly post-Soviet irony: In one story, for example, a girl with no money and no prospects of earning any turns to prostitution- and fails for lack of entrepreneurial talent. Yet common to all are recurrent and interwoven motifs of self-discovery, sexual power, emotional attachment, social alienation, and vulnerability to uncontrollable forces. The ambiguous ways in which these themes are played out reveal much about what has changed and what remains at the core of a complex culture in transition.

Excerpt

Until the 19880s , Russian women's fiction often lacked bite: It tended to settle for politically safe themes, unmemorable character portrayal, plotlines that neither intrigued nor challenged the reader, and a rather flaccid style of fatigued realism. With a few memorable exceptions, such as Natalya Baranskaya A Day Like Any Other (1969), I. Grekova Ladies Hairdresser (1963), Galina Scherbakova Wall (1979), and several. mildly ironic stories by Viktoria Tokareva, that fiction coasted along largely unnoticed. Its docility paralleled women's tacit accommodation with their unacknowledged status as second-class citizens in a society falsely advertising itself as gender-democratic.

Contrary to George Orwell's dire prediction, the eighties brought riot only perestroika but also several remarkable individual female talents in addition to a post-Stalin generation of young women writers whose sense of self and text clearly signaled a new sensibility. Tatyana Tolstaya made her stunning debut in 1983 with "'On the Golden Porch. . . .'" and subsequently published a series of playfully profound stories unequaled in their dense verbal texture, lushly poetic style, and tantalizing shifts in viewpoint. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, whose first stories appeared in 1972, but whose later works were systematically rejected by countless, journals for a full decade, suddenly found acceptance and even popularity, Her Psychologically freighted, deceptively laconic litanies of existential horror introduced readers to her unique authorial signature: the obsessively garrulous narrator harboring ghastly secrets that surface . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.