THE LONG GOODBYE: Three Novellas by Yury Trifonov

THE LONG GOODBYE: Three Novellas

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The more dissident Russian literature we see here, the more curious we are about the non-dissidents--the sort of work being published under state sanction. Trifonov has enormous sales in Russia; he has won a Stalin Prize; he publishes freely in Novi Mir--and yet his fiction is a far cry from the worker-tractor romances we might vaguely expect. These three novellas are both sophisticated and very Russian. Each revolves around a social claustrophobia, a tetchy family life. The Exchange narrows in upon a man's desperate attempt to relieve his share of Moscow's housing shortage by exchanging apartments. Taking Stock draws a picture of the plight of a middle-aged literary hack suffering the alienation born of his. wife and teenage son's rising ambitions. And The Long Goodbye charts the trading of careers between an actress and her unsuccessful writer-husband: hers is on the rise, but it peaks too early, and his takes over. The gusts of reality are very refreshing--classless society albeit, lots of striving takes place in these stories. Though you wouldn't know it from Ellendea Proffer's dropped-stitch translation of the first novella (the second two, rendered by Helen P. Burlingame, are much better), Trifonov's style and outlook is feckless and wry, in a Chekhovian tradition. ""Other people's foolishness is sometimes dazzlingly beautiful,"" says the sadsack narrator of Taking Stock. Fiction, from Cervantes on, would have to nod yes, true--and though Trifonov doesn't dig deep, though his conclusions always land fairly safely on the comic right foot, his work remains a gentle and pleasurable surprise.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row