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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

“Stargorod is emphatically not big...”

So begins Peter Aleshkovsky’s profound, humorous, mystical and poetic novel in stories – a tribute to Russian provincial life that is a modern heir to Gogol’s Mirgorod tales.

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.

Peter Aleshkovsky's writing is vivid and descriptive. His rich, character-driven stories are allegorical and representative of their time and place. In Stargorod, he shows why he is one of modern Russia's most beloved realistic writers, and why he has been thrice nominated for Russia's most prestigious literary prize.

Stargorod is a novel in stories, two novels, actually. The first collection of stories (Stargorod: Voices from the Choir) was written and published in Russian the 1990s, the second (The Institute of Dreams) in the 2010s. This new translation collects both sets of stories into a single whole of 50+ tales about individuals and incidents that, taken as a whole, offer a vivid portrait of Russia before and after the collapse of the USSR. The stories and characters link to one another across time and space, filling out a portrait of Russian life outside the capital, one that normally exists far from Western eyes.


Professional Reviews

"The translator has admirably rendered the individual voices and the skaz technique into English.... I would recommend this book to all specialists in Russian culture interested in contemporary literature. In addition, because the stories stand on their own, it would be easy to select excerpts for a class. It would also appeal to general audiences, especially if they are willing to delve into a long novel that creates interrelated chronotopes through stories, rather than advancing a unified plot." {Kirsten Lodge, SEEJ Journal}


Reader Reviews

"This is the type of book I've wanted to read for a while, fiction about modern Russia that's written by an actual Russian. Stargorod is 58 short stories / character studies all centered around one fictious small town... taken as a whole, there's a sense of time and place that's stronger than what you'll get from most novels." {James Dante / Amazon}


About the Author

Peter Aleshkovsky graduated from Moscow State University and worked for a time as an archaeologist preserving northern monasteries before turning to literature. He is currently at work on a novel about the Tatar Yoke. His website is at peteraleshkovsky.com

About the Translator

Translator Nina Shevchuk-Murray was born and raised in the western Ukrainian city of L'viv. She holds degrees in English linguistics and Creative Writing. Her translations and original poetry have been published in a number of literary magazines. She has previously translated Peter Aleshkovsky's novel, Fish: A History of One Migration (long-listed for the Rossica Translation Prize), and Oksana Zabuzhko’s Museum of Abandoned Secrets (2012).