Stories about the absurdity, corruption, and daily mundanity of modern Russian life.
In his native Russia, Osipov, in addition to being a writer, is a cardiologist, an activist, and the founder of a small publishing company. His first book to be published in the United States is a marvelous collection of short stories in which not very much happens. One story follows a doctor on one of many uneventful trips to the U.S., where he escorts patients, for reasons unspecified. He makes money this way. On his way back to Moscow, a customs official will ask, “What are you traveling with?" and he’ll just say, “ 'All kinds of crap.’ They’ll smile as best they can—one of ours, on you go.” In another story, a geologist decides to join the priesthood despite the fact that “he didn’t even have a decent beard.” Even worse: “He couldn’t sing for his life. And a priest had to sing well.” Osipov clearly carries the weight of Chekhov’s and Bulgakov’s influence not only in his mix of professions, but also in his sense of humor—which is, to say the least, deadpan. Like Chekhov, too, many of Osipov’s stories meander along without a clearly delineated plot or, in the end, a sense of resolution. He is clearly concerned with Russia’s place in the modern world. Several stories, including the one about the airport-hopping doctor, comment on the way that Americans, at least superficially, seem to be driven by rules and regulations, a need for order. Back home, all those things have a way of going to hell. What matters to that customs official is not that the forms have been correctly filled in but that the doctor is “one of ours.”
Remarkable stories, threaded through with a bleak humor, describe life in the provinces of a Russia attempting to contend with the modern world.