THE SKY ABOVE HELL by Yuri Mamleyev


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The stories of Soviet writer Mamleyev (a recent ÉmigrÉ to the U.S.) obviously draw upon the Gogolian tradition in Russian literature; but in this collection (seven stories, one novella) the impression is less of the folk-tale-made-metaphysical than of the shallow joke, the too-quick reversal, the grotesque leer. Indeed, if you can imagine a philosophical, Russian Roald Dahl, you might have Mamleyev. Most all characters are in love with death, death primarily as solipsism. In the title story, a dead man is erotically drawn to his own departed husk of a body. In another tale, the family of a dead little girl killed by a truck bail out the young miscreant driver and install him in the home as the ""bridegroom"" of the dead child. And in ""Shatuny,"" the novella, a whole group of Russians in a small town hunger for corpses and more corpses (maybe a too-neat parable of recent Soviet history) while Mamleyev clothes them in undervests of major tenets of Russian philosophy. Though the necrophiliac themes here sometimes do bear their own weight, usually they don't--and the result is a hurried, graceless stomp.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1980
Publisher: Taplinger