Liza Alexandrova-Zorina was born in 1984 in a little town on Cola Peninsula beyond the Arctic Circle (the setting of her prize-winning novel The Little Man). After school graduation she left her native town for Moscow where she soon became a prolific journalist, film-maker, popular columnist on leading opposition periodicals, and a public activist.
Liza was a finalist in two important literary competitions: Debut Prize and NOS (2012) with her novel The Little Man, and also won of the Northern Star Prize (2010) for her collection of short stories The Rebel. Her latest novels The Broken Doll and Man is a Noun have been published by Eksmo in 1916. Her books were published in French, English, Arabic, Hindi, Ukrainian, Estonian. The Little Man was published in English (GLAS).
Critics compared her writings to Dostoyevsky’s. “I put her novels on the same shelf as works by Dostoyevsky and Bulgakov.” – Martine Van Goubergen, critic, Brussels
“Liza is a fabulous writer. She has created an original universe which is typical of Russian literature.” – Bernard Werber
“Even though it's so dark, there's something that shines through as redeemable - perhaps it's just the ability to reveal the darkness for what it is without condoning it.” – Melanie Moore, translator of The Little Man
“Live dialogues, vivid imagery, striking metaphors. Colorful ethnographic details… Merciless and beautiful prose, pithy and precise, leaves no one unmoved…” – Book Review
“A frightening vision of Russia – this is how our young generation see their country. This is a novel of social protest written by a confident hand.” – Ex Libris
“Liza Alexandrova-Zorina sincerely feels for her weak and downtrodden characters, and her co – feeling for those unfortunates magically elevates them and ennobles her writing.”– SNOB
“The image of the ‘little man’ features in the works of Pushkin, Gogol, Chekhov, and Gorky. In Western literature this traditions is taken further by Camus, Beckett and Kafka. In other words, our Liza Alexandrova – Zorina is in good company which means that readers will expect her to live up to this level.” – Free Press
“Her writings reflect her active public position and social protest. She depicts the life of ‘redundant’ people who had failed to find a place in our society. These ‘humiliated and insulted’ individuals are nevertheless prepared to fight for their rights. Liza paints graphic pictures of squalid provinces, Moscow mafia, police lawlessness, and people’s helplessness in today’s Russia.” – ThankYou.ru
The Broken Doll, novel, 300 pp.
Synopsis + excerpt
The protagonist is an energetic modern woman called Iva Nova. She is a social psychologist, who provides intensive training sessions for her patients to break their characters and influence their lives. She stages sophisticated psychological experiments following the theories of Philip Zimbardo and Stanley Milgram, but adapted to Russian conditions. Her experiments are supposed to demonstrate to all concerned, and herself in the first place, that a person is a hostage of circumstances and his/her ego is just a sum total of various preconditions. But then she herself becomes a victim of a cruel and cunning experiment intended to remove her from her cushy job and teach her a lesson in humility.
At some point, because of an oversight, her well – organized comfortable life collapses like a house of cards. On the very day she moves into her new apartment she shuts herself out of it: she goes out on the landing for a moment, without her keys, naturally, and the heavy door clicks shut behind her leaving her half – dressed and without any documents and any money. The concierge drives her away because she does not know her and Iva can’t prove anything without her papers.
She tries to get various mechanics and an emergency service to break the door but they refuse to do it without proof that the apartment belongs to her. Despite her desperate attempts the door to her home, and to her former life, remains firmly shut.
"Not only she becomes homeless but she realizes that she can’t expect help from her friends because she has consciously built up her relationships on the principle: “everyone for oneself”. Predictably, her friends and colleagues, including her boss, betray her – they are actually only too happy to see this arrogant, self – assured upstart in misery. She finds herself facing an indifferent and heartless city.
While still a boss Iva has found herself a double to replace her on business trips to the provinces. The stylists created an almost exact likeness of the real Iva. Now the double appropriates Iva’s reputation and her job, performing her duties quite adequately in her absence, and so no one misses Iva. Soon the double starts living in her apartment, wearing her clothes and inheriting her friends and lovers. Meanwhile, in the harsh fight for survival the homeless Iva looks less and less her former well – groomed self.
At the end of the novel we learn that it was in fact the double who had staged this merciless experiment on Iva. The closed door was not accidental as it turns out. The whole thing had been carefully planned to the last detail.
Iva Nova has to pass through all the circles of hell before she understands that her former life of a successful business lady was another form of hell, that her emotions, goals and dreams were all artificial and quite unrelated to the real world she was discovering in her life of a tramp. The reality is cruel on her: she has to beg for food at the train station, she works 12 hours a day for a recruiting company which takes away all her earnings, her attempts to approach her ex – friends come to nothing: they all turned away from her. But surviving among the other outcasts she keeps meeting people who share with her their meager possessions and food.
After long wanderings she returns to her apartment and it is as if she confronts her former evil self in the person of the double, her spitting image both externally and internally. By that time she voluntarily gives up her fight to resume her property and position. She changes her name and leaves her apartment, this time for good. Now she is ready for a new future awaiting her.