Christy's Reviews > Four Russian Short Stories: Gazdanov & Others

Four Russian Short Stories by Gaito Gazdanov
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really liked it
bookshelves: non-english

Why are modern Russian writers always so grim? These stories – all penned by exiles from revolutionary Russia – explore four deaths, each echoing a distinct persona of Death with a capital D.

"Seven o'clock? Another hour gone. But I'm not afraid. There's only one thing I regret: that I've lived for so many years without knowing where human happiness is to be found."

Kunak: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Arresting in its brevity, Kunak wields Death's double-edged scythe of cruelty and compassion – the former made all the more horrific by the blunt twist. No, that isn't quite right. The predictability of the blunt twist. Because, with our pitiful human hearts, we let ourselves get lost in Kuznetsova's hopeless fantasy, buoyed by the crowd's naïve expectation and these soon-to-be exiles' new beginnings, only for it all to then (view spoiler) and swept away "in the quick-flowing water" that is life.

A Miracle: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Here, Death taunts us from afar – we never even learn the name of one of his victims. Yet even as Yury Felsen swaddles his readers in a sterile, stupefying hospital ward, Death manages to show off his most cunning poison: despair.

I admit I was confused by the final line though. Did it matter who the wife was? Was it just to show the cavalier, impersonal face of Death? Am I overthinking it? Will we ever know?

The Murder of Valkovsky: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I enjoyed this story the least, although the lucid characterisations were a light, pleasant read. Death was not impactful here besides providing some relief. But as I did not sympathise much with the heroine, even this relief was rather subdued. Not to mention the detached, dreamlike quality the whole scene had. As much as she succeeded in encouraging my (uncharacteristic) delight at the heroine's mild ludicrousness, Berberova ultimately failed to make me care.

I suppose the takeaway was still somewhat intriguing: we all know passion kills, but passion depleted is still more deadly than its thrall.

Requiem: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Until the final two pages, Requiem was unremarkable. Death was quick, matter-of-factly foreshadowed, typically tragic. And yet – amongst characters and customs so foreign, so unlikely to arouse any feelings of fellowship, I was inexplicably moved to tears. There is something in the human condition that cannot help but warm in the presence of brotherhood, even a brotherhood we were never members of.

Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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Reading Progress

March 2, 2018 – Shelved
March 2, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
March 13, 2018 – Started Reading
March 13, 2018 – Shelved as: non-english
March 14, 2018 –
page 20
35.71% "A Miracle: Did it matter who the wife was? Did Margarita give him the morphine? Was this autobiographical? Where are the answers???"
March 15, 2018 – Finished Reading

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