RUSSIAN WOMEN: Two Stories by I. Grekova


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From a contemporary Soviet woman-writer: a short story and a short novel--both snappy with a feminine determination that transmutes into a believable, quite refreshing optimism. The story, ""Ladies' Hairdresser,"" concerns a young Moscow hairstylist, Vitaly, working in wretched conditions: his innate honorableness, ambition, and spark, however, impress one of his middle-aged customers. And the bounce here comes from watching the characters overcome--or at least get around--the prevailing bureaucracy. The novella, ""The Hotel Manager,"" is a straight sequential telling of the life and times of Vera Platovna Laricheva--who, as a very independent girl, meets a handsome Army officer on the beach one day and then marries him. Larichev, the officer, turns out to be no prize: he forbids Vera to bear children, is a stern taskmaster, and insists on wifely good cheer at all times--but Verochka loves him, tolerating him fondly until he dies. With his demands, she has done her best: she has a knack of making surrogate families out of friends and boarders. (There are scenes that have the kind of happy clamor of a crowded kitchen.) Without him, however, the character she's always had in store is truly, finally allowed to tumble out: there follow lovers, deaths (her dear, ancient, supportive mother), poverty--yet somehow never loneliness; she's a natural earth-mother--and eventually is fitted to the perfect job, becoming a near-faultless hotel manager. Grekova tells Vera's story in the most flat, chronological fashion. Nonetheless, it never becomes slow or tiresome: there is sun and shade in such right spots and proportions that this does indeed seem to be a whole, comprehensible, and cheering life passing before us. Unusual, somewhat surprising fiction from the USSR: a welcome, zesty arrival.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1983
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich