The first English-language collection of a contemporary Russian master of the short story.
Maxim Osipov, who lives and practices medicine in a town ninety miles outside Moscow, is one of Russia’s best contemporary writers. In the tradition of Anton Chekhov and William Carlos Williams, he draws on his experiences in medicine to write stories of great subtlety and striking insight. Osipov’s fiction presents a nuanced, collage-like portrait of life in provincial Russia—its tragedies, frustrations, and moments of humble beauty and inspiration. The twelve stories in this volume depict doctors, actors, screenwriters, teachers, entrepreneurs, local political bosses, and common criminals whose paths intersect in unpredictable yet entirely natural ways: in sickrooms, classrooms, administrative offices and on trains and in planes. Their encounters lead to disasters, major and minor epiphanies, and—on occasion—the promise of redemption.
Osipov makes his English-language debut with this masterful and sublime collection, largely set in rural Russian villages. In "Moscow-Petrozavodsk" a young doctor is taking the 14-hour trip from Moscow to Petrozavodsk for a medical conference. When Tolya, a fellow traveler, goes into alcohol withdrawal, the doctor, trying to be helpful, alerts the train crew that Tolya needs medical treatment. Instead, he unwittingly causes Tolya to be thrown off the train and beaten by police at the next stop. Indignant, the doctor pays a visit to Colonel Schatz, a local arbitrator of law and order, who promptly turns the doctor's simple narrative of justice and injustice upside down. In "On the Banks of the Spree," Betty is flying to Berlin from her home in Moscow to meet a half-sister for the first time, whose existence is one of several secrets her father, a retired KGB spy, has recently revealed. The title story, the stand-out of the collection, begins as a simple, pastoral tale as Ksenia Nikolayevna Knysh, head of the region's legislative assembly, plans to build a new chapel in memory of her deceased daughter. At first, the story seems a simple sketch of a mid-level bureaucrat, but when an ethnic Tajik seasonal worker is accused of murder, themes of religious tension and gender injustice break the surface. This collection showcases Osipov's talent in creating subtle, sophisticated character portraits that carry a good dose of suspense.