Mom didn’t think that your Pobeda watch had any significance except that it didn’t stop when your heart ceased its ticking. Asked what was left, she handed me your cardiogram. She flattened you. You were reduced to a straight line.
Is it proof of the finality of the spirit?
She threw out your glasses and burned your Magadan pictures, except one where you had a full head of red hair.
“Near the Arctic, your father walked hatless. To impress former Gulag convicts? Or reindeer? That’s why he went bald.”
Did it feel ugly to be called “shitface” by her because by immigrating, you, a former mining engineer, became only a lowly janitor? Now she slid into afterlife practicality.
“I put his sneakers into a coffin beside his usual shoes, so he is comfortable where he is!”
Papa, did you know that I was expecting?
Mom didn’t let me tell you, guarding the gates of access to you, promising that she’d tell you herself.
It’s been five months. The memory of you hadn’t left me for a second. I protected what was inside me from cruelty, severing contact with her. But I invited her now.
Did you know that your life wasn’t in vain?
Your first grandson was just placed, clean and dry, into a cot. It is the spitting image of you as a baby.
Mom gasped looking at his red hair.
As though you briefly inhabited him when saying “hi.”
Of course, Papa, you knew.
Margarita Meklina is a bilingual fiction writer and essayist born in St. Petersburg, Russia. She came to the United States in the early 1990s and spent twenty years in San Francisco; now she divides her time between Dublin, Ireland, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She received the 2003 Andrei Bely Prize (Russia’s first independent literary prize, which enjoys a special reputation for honoring dissident and nonconformist writing) for her short story collection Battle at St. Petersburg and the 2009 Russian Prize, awarded by the Yeltsin Center Foundation, for her manuscript My Criminal Connection to Art. In 2013, she was a finalist for the Nonconformism prize for her novella Cervix, and in 2014 she was short-listed for NOS, a prize given by the fund of Mikhail Prokhorov for “new social trends” in literature. Author of 6 books in her native Russian, she also completed a YA novel The Little Gaucho Who Loved Don Quixote in English (Black Wolf Edition & Publishing LTD, 2016) and a collection of short stories A Sauce Stealer (Spuyten Duyvil, 2017). Translated into French and Swedish, two of her novellas are available as chapbooks: Poussière d’étoiles (Etoiles, 2016) and Linea Nigra (Ars Interpres, 2017). In 2018, she was awarded the Mark Aldanov Literary Prize for her novella Ulay in Lithuania. The prize is given by New York’s Novy Zhurnal to Russian writers living outside of Russia.
A book of poems in Russian by Victor Enyutin (San Francisco, 1983). Victor Enyutin is a Russian writer, poet, and sociologist who emigrated to the US from the Soviet Union in 1975.
This collection of personal essays by a bi-national Russian/U.S. author offers glimpses into many things Soviet and post-Soviet: the sacred, the profane, the mundane, the little-discussed and the often-overlooked. What was a Soviet school dance like? Did communists go to church? Did communists listen to Donna Summer? If you want to find out, read on!
“Cold War Casual” is a collection of transcribed oral testimony and interviews translated from Russian into English and from English into Russian that delve into the effect of the events and the government propaganda of the Cold War era on regular citizens of countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Julia Wiener was born in the USSR a few years before the Second World War; her youth was spent during the “Thaw” period, and her maturity coincided with the years of “Soviet stagnation”, which, in her case, ended with her emigration to Israel in the early 1970s. Her wartime childhood, her Komsomol-student youth, her subsequent disillusionment, her meetings with well-known writers (Andrei Platonov, Victor Nekrasov, etc.) are described in a humorous style and colorful detail. Julia brings to life colorful characters – from her Moscow communal apartment neighbors to a hippie London lord, or an Arab family, headed by a devotee of classical Russian literature. No less diverse are the landscapes against which the events unfold: the steppes of Kazakhstan, the Garden of Gethsemane, New York, Amsterdam, London.
Julia Wiener’s novels focus on those moments when illusory human existence collapses in the face of true life, be it spiritual purity, love, old age, or death.