MOSCOW DAYS: Life and Hard Times in the New Russia by Galina Dutkina

MOSCOW DAYS: Life and Hard Times in the New Russia

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Superficial journalism masquerading as critique, Dutkina's report on the depravities of post-Communist Russia is a rehash of familiar material. For the past few years, the media have provided countless reports on the changes Russia has undergone since the end of Communism. Dutkina, an Moscow-based editor and translator, tries hard to give her account the personal touch. Instead, she creates a narrative that consists of extreme pathos attached to the usual subjects of post-Soviet scholarship and journalism: the ubiquitous Russian mafia, the downtrodden women of Russia, the nouveau fiche and their excesses, the respective fates of the ordinary worker and the intelligentsia. The author's adolescent enthusiasm for overwrought punctuation and clunky metaphors mar an already clumsy narrative style: ""ladies as graceful as does glided by with men dressed to the nines""; ""I ask you, where, in what other country of the world, would such a thing be possible?!"" Her account reads like private letters written in a particularly preachy tone: ""Where is that freedom-loving and proud spirit of the former Russian intelligentsia?"" When Outkina latches onto a metaphor, she hammers away at it. For instance, a chaper entitled ""Through the Russian Looking Glass"" describes endlessly a world where everything is backwards or topsy-turvy: ""Russia is . . . a black box where all laws considered just by the rest of the world are turned upside down."" So insistent upon this theme is Dutkina that she fails to observe how similar her Russia is, in fact, to Western democracies, where the gap between rich and poor grows steadily, where homeless roam the streets, and where parents fear for their children's safety. The new Russia's true drama lies as much in its similarities to our own lives as in its contrasts with Communist Russia. Had Dutkina expanded her observations beyond the exclusive Russian framework, she would have provided her narrative with far greater depth.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Kodansha