THE BARSUKOV TRIANGLE, THE TWO-TONED BLOND And Other Stories by Carl R. & Ellendea Proffer--Eds. Proffer


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The Proffers have assembled 15 stories by contemporary Russian writers, nine of which have been published in the Soviet Union and the rest of which might well have been acceptable before 1973--when the USSR joined the Universal Copyright Convention and, perversely, became unusually strict about the dissemination of native literary talent. Carl Proffer, in his acidulous and informative introduction, provides an overview of today's home-grown Russian fiction: an almost universal realism, a lack of formal experiment, the gradual extinction of a spiritual dimension; he also charges that Fyodor Abramov, author of Two Winters and Three Summers (p. 307), was, before he began writing, ""a SMERSH executioner. He personally shot at least fourteen people. . . Can a bad man write a good book, I always asked Russians. If you want to know if an executioner can write, read his story below."" And indeed, like the novel, Abramov's story--about a legendary timberman--is fine, strong fiction. Even better, however, is Bulat Okudzhava's ""Lots of Luck, Kid!""--about a young soldier's equability through horrendous wartime fighting against the Germans. (Smoothly translated by Robert Szulkin, it first appeared in the liberal anthology of the Sixties thaw, Pages From Tarusa.) Younger voices are represented by Nina Katerli's scan of the combined life in a Moscow apartment house, ""The Barsukov Triangle,"" and by Vladimir Maramzin's opaque ""The Two-Toned Blond""--chockablock with neologisms and slang that seem to get the best of the translator here. And from more familiar names--Valentin Rasputin, Vasily Shukshin, Yuri Trifonov, Fazil Iskander--come professional, if unsurprising and unmomentous, pieces. A valuable filling-in of the Russian-fiction picture--with conservative work very unlike the avant-garde creations of the Russian exiles.

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 1984
Publisher: Ardis