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Fish: A History of One Migration

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Product Description

This mesmerizing novel about the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman was shortlisted for the prestigious Russian Booker Prize (an award the author won in 2016 for a subsequent novel, Krepost). Expansive, gripping, often controversial, Fish is a story about the intimate fallout of imperial collapse, from one of modern Russia's most important writers.
In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera (“Faith” in Russian) from the steppes of Central Asia to a remote, forest-bound community of Estonians, to the chaos of Moscow. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration. Vera gains the nickname “fish” from her abusive husband, who feels she is cold and unfeeling. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Vera in fact discovers she has a powerful gift to alleviate the suffering of others, while she can do little to fend off the adversity that buffets her own life. 


“Prose of the highest calibre: every detail resonates with absolute authenticity, you can feel and hear the heroine's every breath.”
– Maya Kucherskaya
"Aleshkovsky has a talent for original imagery and visually rich descriptions of the physical space his heroine occupies, and he is particularly skillful in incorporating local traditions and beliefs into his heroine's world... Equally important, he is able to endow his heroine with a credible voice and persona....Nina Shevchuk-Murray's translation captures Vera's world with the same power and sensitivity as the Russian text..."
– Valentina Brougher (Slavic and East European Journal)
"His descriptive writing is, in some places, quite outstanding… His prose borders on the lyrical…"
– Wendy Muzlanova, Scotland-Russia Forum Review
“The writing in Fish is excellent, it is an easy read in one sitting. You simply can’t tear yourself away from this novel, you just want to turn the page to see what new plot twist awaits.”
– Sergei Belyakov, Zhurnalny Zal 
“Aleshkovsky is one of our finest prose writers... The novel Fish: A History of One Migration, was the literary event of recent years.”
– First of September (2008) 
“Aleshkovsky's novel is an engrossing portrait of the narrator Vera (nicknamed "Fish") and of Soviet and post-Soviet life, combining rich detail with a shimmer of mystery. Like many heroines of Russian literature, Vera is a sufferer, and her story brings up the transience and fragility of human relationships as well as the endurance of experience in human memory. Aleshkovsky has learned well from the "women's prose" of the glasnost and early Soviet eras. Translator Nina Shevchuk-Murray, who is herself a poet and literary editor, sensitively conveys the stylistic variety and distinct voices of the novel. A wonderful discovery!”
– Sibelan Forrester, Swarthmore College
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Peter Aleshkovsky’s work is remarkable for his commitment to the realistic novel tradition. Indeed, Fish is the first Russian novel to grapple with post-Soviet colonial “otherness” without transposing it into a fantastic, post-apocalyptic realm or reducing it to black-and-white conflicts of the popular detective genres. The male author’s choice of a first-person, female narrator (extremely rare in Russia) makes Fish all the more significant. In 2016, Aleshkovsky won Russia's top literary prize, the Russian Booker, for his novel Krepost (The Fortress).


ABOUT THE TRANSLATORNina Shevchuk-Murray was born and raised in the western Ukrainian city of L'viv, Shevchuk-Murray holds degrees in English linguistics and Creative Writing. She translates both poetry and prose from the Russian and Ukrainian languages. Her translations and original poetry have been published in a number of literary magazines, including Chtenia. With Ladette Randolph, she co-edited the anthology of Nebraska non-fiction, The Big Empty (University of Nebraska Press, 2007).



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  1. Caught... off-guard 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 19th Jun 2014

    I ordered this book based on the enthusiastic reviews. I did not expect what I found, though. The prose is beautiful and mesmerizing, even in translation. It carried me to all the locations with vivid sensory imagery and fresh metaphors. What was unexpected (and should not have been, shame on me) was the melancholy and struggle at every turn. Yet I knew people who experienced these same things... imagine!... I just did not expect that any of them would ever want to write about their experiences, because they did not end in some kind of conventional, heroic or tragic way. It is a beautiful treatment of an ordinary life by an extraordinarily sensitive narrator.

Other Details

Peter Aleshkovsky
Nina Shevchuk-Murray

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