BALANCING ACTS by Helena Goscilo

BALANCING ACTS

Contemporary Stories by Russian Women
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Wide sampling of 19 short stories by leading contemporary Russian women writers, in first-time translation and US publication. A long, didactic introduction by Goscilo (Slavic Languages, Literature and Cultures/ Univ. of Pittsburgh) helps place this book in what would otherwise be for many readers a contextless fog. Most notable is her claim, borne out by the stories and collection title, that the "double-shift syndrome" of work and domestic life is the predominant theme of Russian female life and fiction. The best pieces here show ambitious Russian women, often members of the intelligentsia, tottering on a precipice between career and love. In Natalia Baranskaia's "The Kiss," a senior scholar at the USSR Academy of Sciences finds work a pleasure and men a difficult distraction. In Viktoria Tokareva's "Nothing Special," age versus change is the poignant theme of a woman's search for romance and self-definition. "Be Still, Torment of Passion," one of two stories included by Liudmila Uvarova, is a vivid account of fame, love, and loss in the life of a talented actress. Other stories, like Galina Shcherbakova's "The Wall," show ambivalent attitudes towards traditional notions of motherhood in Soviet life, exploring nuances of emotional response and change. As a whole, a firm feminist energy drives these stories and helps combat technical lapses, occasionally wooden styling, and the difficulties of coloring the mundane. For Slavic scholars a must; for the literary curious a rare gem; for most others a somewhat leaden read, dignified but dry.

ISBN: 253-31134-9; paper:
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
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