Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

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Author, Translator, Pages, Cover,


Peter Aleshkovsky
Nina Shevchuk-Murray


From the 2016 Russian Booker Prize Winner  

“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 recently won 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.

"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. 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

Author Peter Aleshkovsky was born in 1957 and graduated some two decades later from Moscow State University. He worked for several years as an archaeologist in Central Asia and as a historical preservationist in the Russian North before turning full-time to literature in the mid-1990s.

He attained literary success with his collection of stories Stargorod, followed by his novels Seagull, Skunk: A Life (translated into English by Glas), Vladimir Chigrintsev and, most recently, The Institute of Dreams.

Aleshkovsky's style is decidedly in the realistic tradition, but that does not stop him from investigating the mystical and miraculous in everyday life. His works are richly descriptive and evocative of the uniquely Russian worldview, while at the same time tapping into universal human emotions and experiences. He has three times been short-listed for the Russian Booker Prize, including for his novel Fish. In 2016, he was awarded the Booker for Krepost (The Fortress).

Translator Nina Shevchuk-Murray was born and raised in the western Ukrainian city of L'viv, and 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). Her translation of Oksana Zabuzhko's The Museum of Abandoned Secrets was published in 2012.


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