In the chaos of early-1990s Russia, a paralyzed veteran’s wife and stepdaughter conceal the Soviet Union’s collapse from him in order to keep him—and his pension—alive, until it turns out the tough old man has other plans. An instant classic of post-Soviet Russian literature, Olga Slavnikova’s The Man Who Couldn’t Die tells the story of how two women try to prolong a life—and the means and meaning of their own lives—by creating a world that doesn’t change, a Soviet Union that never crumbled.Read More
In a Soviet elementary school, a bombastic teacher lectures his young students on traffic accidents and family separation, unwittingly stirring an emotional crisis. A lost wallet, an office fling, an upset stomach—the minutiae of life unveil the private tragedies at the heart of a school community.
A world away, an old herdsman entrances a young tank commander with the legend of Baron Ungern, the real-life White Russian officer who conquered Mongolia. A foggy epic unfolds, a tale of faith and revenge centering on a mysterious amulet, said to make the wearer invincible. From the dim of the classroom to the vast Mongolian steppe, Leonid Yuzefovich’s masterful novellas The Storm and Horsemen of the Sands drill straight to the core of human emotion. These Russian parables illuminate the fears, passions, and ambitions beneath the grandest acts and the tiniest gestures.Read More
The Red Wheel is Solzhenitsyn’s magnum opus about the Russian Revolution. Solzhenitsyn tells this story in the form of a meticulously researched historical novel, supplemented by newspaper headlines of the day, fragments of street action, cinematic screenplay, and historical overview. The first two nodes— August 1914 and November 1916—focus on Russia’s crises and recovery, on revolutionary terrorism and its suppression, on the missed opportunity of Pyotr Stolypin’s reforms, and how the surge of patriotism in August 1914 soured as Russia bled in World War I. March 1917—the third node—tells the story of the Russian Revolution itself, during which not only does the Imperial government melt in the face of the mob, but the leaders of the opposition prove utterly incapable of controlling the course of events.Read More