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Pushkin Hills

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,231 ratings  ·  118 reviews
An unsuccessful writer and an inveterate alcoholic, Boris Alikhanov has recently divorced his wife Tatyana, and he is running out of money. The prospect of a summer job as a tour guide at the Pushkin Hills Preserve offers him hope of regaining some balance in life as his wife makes plans to emigrate to the West with their daughter Masha, but during Alikhanov’s stay in the ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Counterpoint (first published 1983)
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4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,231 ratings  ·  118 reviews

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Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-reviews
I like to get drunk.

This statement is true and non-fictional but it should not cause you, dear compassionate reader, to worry. My liking of alcohol’s immediate effects is nothing compared to my dislike of its mid- and longer term consequences. I’ve got the stomach of a baby so I can't take the habit far enough to even call it a habit, as every fibre of my body seems to protest vehemently against overzealous drinking.

But I like my peripheral vision to get blurrier for the sake of a greater percep
Mar 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, translation
sergei dovlatov's pushkin hills (Заповедник) - finally published in english translation some three decades after its completion - is an often hilarious, sometimes wistful, but always entertaining novel of vodka-fueled disintegration. autobiographically inspired (at least conceptually), pushkin hills confronts personal failure, culture, art, and sociopolitical legacy - yet does so in a wise, sincere, and spirited way which effortlessly enriches dovlatov's already-wild romp. the late russian write ...more
Nov 26, 2016 marked it as to-read
Shelves: russia
Just bought this, discovered it at City Lights in San Francisco. Somebody said recently in regards to this book that 'Russian humor is tragedy plus vodka.' Dovlatov's book of short stories "The Suitcase" I have probably bought six times--I keep giving it to people. If you haven't read it, do! And who doesn't love Pushkin? Cannot wait to read Pushkin Hills.
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since Berlinale 2018 where I watched a film about Dovlatov, I have wanted to read some of his work. It turned out not to be so easy as his work has not been translated in Latvian. So I had to take the road less traveled and read something from a Russian author in English (my Russian is simply not good enough for literary adventures). Driven by a curiosity about an author that had eluded my literary radar, I was pleasantly surprised to find his writing as witty and engaging as the portrayal of hi ...more
Paul Fulcher
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
"I'm fed up with standing in line for all kinds of junk. I'm fed up with wearing stocking with holes. I'm fed up with getting excited about beef sausages... What's holding you back? The Hermitage, the Neva River, birch trees?"
"I couldn't care less about birch trees."
"Then what?"
"Language. In a foreign tongue we lose eighty per cent of our personality. We lose our ability to joke, to be ironic. This alone terrifies me."
"I don't have time for jokes. Think about [our daughter]. Imagine what aw
Vit Babenco
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes when life is going downhill attempts to start toeing the line may just exacerbate the situation… And turn one’s existence into an unpremeditated fun…
“Natella had come from Moscow at the urge of romantic, or rather reckless ideas. A physicist by education, she worked as a schoolteacher. She decided to spend her three-month holiday here. And regretted coming. The Preserve was total pandemonium. The tour guides and methodologists were nuts. The tourists were ignorant pigs. And everyone w
Tamás Fábián
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
There is a special place for these kind of books, no solution, no villain. Just the big ol' LIFE. As thrilling or joyous it may be it is bitter, tragic and also absurd. The shadow proves the sunshine. We may choose to live life with a positive attitude or we may live it through making the seemingly good but wrong choices, it is totally up to us and there is no second try. The story telling is exceptionally good, I am starting to fall in love with Russian writers.
Marina Sofia
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
A book about alcoholism, failed careers, lives and marriages, about repression under the Soviet regime. It could all be very grim and dark, but there is lots of black humour and a sort of fierce resignation and fatalist philosophy which makes this quite funny at times. And very illuminating about a certain way of life.
The book was almost too short - I'd have liked to see more of the eccentric characters that Boris encounters there.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? Russian literature at its best. Loved, loved, loved it and all its tragic cleverness. Can't wait to get my hands on some more Dovlatov.
David Flood
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
More entertaining lies from Sergei Dovlatov about his previous life as a dour bastard.

Sergei Dovlatov masquerades as 'Boris' an alcoholic dissident writer who after divorcing his wife flees to the Pushkin reserve to be a tour guide. Every other tour guide is a character like him in a similar position. Through giving tours at the Pushkin reserve - we see a lot of the mental gymnastics that go into navigating the arts in the world of the Soviet Union.

If you've read a lot of his work before getti
Angel 一匹狼
Now, "Заповедник" (or "El Parc" in its Catalan title) is not a bad novella, or a badly written (or translated) one. It is also not a novella without good ideas, or some humor, or interesting characters. It is just... kind of pointless.

The story revolves around Boris, a writer without past or future, divorced, a drunkard. After his divorce, he finds a job at the Pushkin Hills Preserve where he will try to put his life in order. Obviously, he will fail.

The biggest problem the novella faces it is i
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pushkinskie Gory (also can be called Pushgory or Pushkin Hills) is a large open-air museum around the former Alexander Pushkin's family mansion. Its area includes several villages, each having a mansion and a park, surrounding forests, and riverside landscape. There is also a settlement with the same title nearby. So says Wikitravel. Think Hardy Country and you’ve got the right idea. Personally I’ve never really got the whole literary tours thing—I remember sitting in Trinity College, Dublin and ...more
Guy Salvidge
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dovlatov is a really appealing writer, not only for his humour but also his compassion. He really does remind me of Vonnegut in this regard. Pushkin Hills is the third of his books I've read, and it's my favourite. Sadly there don't appear to be any more available in English presently. This slim volume (130 pages) concerns the plight of a failed writer and alcoholic working at the 'Pushkin Reserve', where he runs a tour on the life of Russian's most famous poet. There are a number of amusing asi ...more
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world
Inital impression was underwhelming: a short, small-scale, fairly mundane story with not a lot to recommend it. But this is one of those cases when it really helps to know the background of the author and the historical/political context against which it was written. The protagonist is a writer that can't get published and is conflicted with how he wants/is able to express himself - this is basically autobiographical re Dovlatov! The Pushkin Hills "theme park" is a microcosm of the USSR in the l ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
As witty as always, but a very sad autobiographical novel, about the time when Dovlatov's wife and daughter left for the United States, while he was undecided to leave. After this one should read "The suicase", where he is already in New York, to end up with a less sad aftertaste.

The following exchange is a great example of how Dovlatov sees people.
"I sat by the door. A waiter materialized a minute later.
-What's your pleasure?
-My pleasure -I said- is for everybody to be kind, humble and courteo
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I haven't read any of Pushkin's works. But the thing that attracted my attention to this book was the name of Pushkin. I thought that it could motivate me to start one of Pushkin's works. It came true. Plus, I met a brilliant author, Dovlatov. I wish it could be longer. Minus, one star.
Kevin Loigu
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh, it's always a privilege to read Dovlatov. He's sharp both in comedy and in tragedy of life. As I love contrasts, this was a near-perfect read.
Anna Jeffries
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian
Weird, mate.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ari by: Кузя
A very nice, funny and sometimes sad novel of a soviet writer whose wife chose to go to America and asked him to go with him.
Lots of Pushkin, alcohol and thoughts.
Vuk Trifkovic
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Classic Dovlatov. Not quite hitting the highs of "The Suitcase", though.
Mike Goldstein
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Consistently funny. Insightful and beautifully written, even via translation. All sorts of Russian and Soviet references that are probably muuuuuuch funnier to someone who knows more context than I do.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pushkin Hills ("Заповедник") was written by Sergei Dovlatov, a Russian and American writer, in the late seventies-early eighties of the 20th century. The novel is largely autobiographical. Just like the main character, Dovlatov struggled with alcoholism and was never published in the Soviet Union during his lifetime. Pushkin Hills shows the realities of life in the Soviet Russia, and the struggles a talented writer has to deal with if he wants to write creatively rather than follow "the Party li ...more
R.C.A. Nixon
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a kid I worked in a library as a 'page' putting away books people borrowed. I got into the habit of picking up titles from the book cart that struck my fancy. Call it a primitive form of getting book recommendations. I discovered Pushkin Hills this way and it really is a breathtaking story, hilarious and sad and wise all wrapped in a blanket of intense yearning. It's a story about a fellow whose history mirrors Dovlatov himself (how much fiction how much fact is an open question) and the time ...more
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dry as hell and extremely caustic. That is our man Dovlatov. A #1 émigré, dispenser of hard-won wisdoms, and implacable recorder of Soviet memories. The Suitcase remains one of my favourtie novels of the twentieth century and arguably THE great novel of exile. Pushkin Hills is a sweet and oddly comforting drunkard's lament. Life on the Pushkin Hills Preserve. An autobiographical romp, dampened by drink. The hilarity is matter-of-fact. Spot-on cultural commentary, rueful gallows humour, a strict ...more
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Sergei Dovlatov, Russian born and raised, had extreme difficulty in having his works published in his home country. His works were smuggled into Western Europe and published in foreign journals, as a result he was expelled from the Union of Soviet Journalists and the KGB even destroyed the typeset formes of his fist book. At 37 years of age he emigrated from the Soviet Union with his mother and lived in New York with his wife and daughter. Twelve books were published in the USA and Europe during ...more
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, russia
Dovlatov had me on the first page ...

I sat by the door. A waiter with tremendous felted sideburns materialized a minute later.
"What's your pleasure?"
"My pleasure," I said, "is for everyone to be kind, humble and courteous."
The waiter, having had his fill of life's diversity, said nothing.
"My pleasure is half a glass of vodka, a beer and two sandwiches."

Sad, funny, glimpse into the life of a frustrated writer who is unable to get published in Soviet Russia. His wife wants to emigrate to the We
Evan Rocher
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: heavy-literature
Dovlatov's short story is amazing. It's got a very brighton-beach sound to it (which makes a little sense considering he ended up a soviet emigre in NYC, though I'm not sure if he wrote this before he came over). It's simply... believable? The stakes are ostensibly low (a man, a wife, a child, a divorce, an exile, a boring job) and despite doing nothing to play it up, Dovlatov still makes the work incredibly engaging. I also found his portraits of characters to ring true for some reason--it wasn ...more
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
“Pushkin Hills” has a simple plot that really doesn’t go anywhere. Boris Alikhanov is an unpublished writer with an alcohol dependency, who is recently divorced from Tatyana and in need of money. To make matters worse, Tatyana is planning to emigrate to America with their daughter, Masha. Boris takes a job as a tour guide at the Pushkin Hills Preserve. Notwithstanding the thin plot, this autobiographical novella has much strength. Its tone is dark and ironic; it is filled with insightful observa ...more
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dry-humor
(This refers to the English-language version, "The Pushkin Hills")

Dry Russian humor permeates this story of an alcoholic writer who decides to move away from his family and become a tour guide at the Pushkin Hills Preserve. His time there provides an opportunity to stop drinking and reflect on life as it is, as it could be, and how much of it he is willing to change.

His unintelligible landlord is the funniest character, a man whose speech is such that only his nouns and verbs can be relied upon,
Dec 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I am still in pursuit of an answer to the question on why this author is so revered and loved, but at least I already know that he is definitely not a bad writer. I liked “Заповедник” less, but appreciated a lot the whole idea of “Компромисс,” and I am ready to try some new books by Довлатов. His books overall require some time and effort: as a rule, I do not like them from the beginning, they look to me as something secondary and superficial, and the main character is almost repellent, but late ...more
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SERGEI DOVLATOV (Russian: Сергей Довлатов) was born in Ufa, Bashkiria (U.S.S.R.), in 1941. He dropped out of the University of Leningrad after two years and was drafted into the army, serving as a guard in high-security prison camps. In 1965 he began to work as a journalist, first in Leningrad and then in Tallinn, Estonia. After a period of intense harassment by the authorities, he emigrated to th ...more
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“Looking around, do you see ruins? That was to be expected. He who lives in the world of words does not get along with things.” 4 likes
“Я сел у двери. Через минуту появился официант с громадными войлочными бакенбардами.
— Что вам угодно?
— Мне угодно, — говорю, — чтобы все были доброжелательны, скромны и любезны.
Официант, пресыщенный разнообразием жизни, молчал.
— Мне угодно сто граммов водки, пиво и два бутерброда.”
More quotes…