The pervasive suspicion and fear of the Stalin era; the curious "ration system" that governs contemporary Soviet life; obsession and insanity; bureauctaric inefficiency and hypocrisy; mind-expanding spirituality. These are but some of the provocative themes to be found on the pages of The New Soviet Fiction
. The authors are not dissidents living on the fringes of society, but sixteen of the most prominent and most promising writers in the Soviet Union today. They were selected for this anthology by Sergei Zalygin, editor in chief of Novy Mir
, the leading Soviet literary journal, and their stories, translated here for the first time, introduce the English-speaking world to the powerful and diverse literary voices of glasnost
There's Andrei Bitov's dizzying, satiric science fiction tale "Pushkin's Photograph (1799-2099)," which takes place simultaneously in the past, present, and future. Its verbal gymnastics and multiple levels of meaning will challenge even the most sophisticated reader. Vladimir Makanin probes the depths of a psychopathic personality in the deceptively straightforward short story "Antileader." In "No Smiles," I. Grekova relates the ordeal of a woman scientist ostracized from the scientific community merely because of her refusal to play by the rules of the game. In a lighter vein, Estonian writer Arvo Valton combines reality and fantasy in the story "Love in the Mustamägi," about a man and a woman who fall in love and have a child although they never actually meet.
"Fire and Dust," by the gifted young writer Tatyana Tolstaya, is a delightful and penetrating study in contrasting personalities, the petit bourgeois Rimma and the irrepressible Bohemian vagabond Svetlana. Bulat Okudzhava raises the specter of the Stalin years with chilling matter-of-factness in "The Art of Needles and Sins." Vladimir Soloukhin's story, "Stepanida Ivanova's Funeral," a scathing critique of the Soviet system of goods and services, details the frustrating, at times absurd, obstacles the narrator encounters in the process of making funeral arrangements for his mother. And the narrator of Valentin Rasputin's beautifully written story, "What Should I Tell the Crow?" searches for spiritual harmony and fulfillment within himself and with the forces of nature.
Complete with an introduction by Mr. Zalygin, seven illustrations by Soviet artists, and biographical notes on the authors by a Soviet critic, The New Soviet Fiction is more than just a collection of fine stories. It gives us the Soviets' view of themselves at this extraordinary juncture in their history.