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Irina Muravyova


a novel and two short stories, 240 pages
ISBN 5-7172-008-X

Translated by John Dewey

Sample writing The Nomadic Soul

"An aspiring talent emerging from the recent group of emigre Russian writers..."
World Literature Today

"Her prose tends to poetry,
it is marked with
dignity and faith in her unfortunate homeland."
Russkaya Mysl

traces the dramatic history of several generations of an upper-class family during the First World War and the Civil War in Russia. Historical events providing a background for the narrative are depicted not directly but rather as seismic shock waves overturning and transforming the lives of ordinary people.

The three eponymous heroines are close friends, all from formerly affluent families stripped of their wealth and status by the Revolution and now struggling for their very survival in Stalin's Russia.

A married couple live to a ripe old age in idyllic love and harmony during the perestroika years. Through flashbacks to their earlier life it becomes apparent that the husband had been a commandant of a women's labour camp in the 1930s, and enjoyed the confidence of Stalin himself.

"The Nomadic Soul is a richly suggestive blend of prose and poetry, tirelessly jumping back and forth in time and place and begging multifold connections with the present that remains poignantly unclarified. The story is told from a wide variety of perspectives and largely through dialogue, with the speakers' identity withheld often until the last moment. Muravyova revels in this at times bewildering polyphony. Here, as elsewhere, Muravyova shows her considerable talent at refashioning staples of the Russian tradition with verve and ingenuity." — The Moscow Times

Irina Muravyova, born in 1952 in Moscow, is a philologist by training. She is a Pushkin scholar and translates poetry from English and German. In 1985 she emigrated to the USA and currently lives in Boston where until recently she has been editing the Boston Marathon, a Russian-language literary gazette.
Her body of work includes a great number of short stories, published in the major literary journals, and the short novels: The Nomadic Soul, The Curly-headed Lieutenant, Phylemon and Baucis, Natalya's Diary, Shooting a Documentary.
Muravyova was a late-comer to the mainland Russian literature, first making a name for herself in the Russian emigre circles. Today she has three books published in Russia to a great critical acclaim.
Her precise and poetic stories explore the impact of Russian history on the lives of ordinary people. The Revolution and Civil War, the purges of the 1930s, and two world wars still resound in the struggles of present-day Russians in a vastly changed society. Irina Muravyova is one of the finest women authors today. Her prose is poetic and precise, always on the lookout for the precious grains of love and kindness in a hostile world.

From Publishers Weekly, July 10, 2000
"Personal Russian melodramas unfold amid major historic ones in Muravyova's collection of one novella and two short stories. In the title story, beautiful Lydia is a young mother whose love for another man brings tragedy. Dreamily recalled by a distant relative, the melancholy tale takes place during the revolution which 'started with half-educated youths still wet behind the ears taking exception to the world around them youths with no soul who had never really experienced anything in their snivelling lives.' A member of the bourgeoisie, Lydia is at first repressed by, then targeted for, her social status. 'How did she endure,' Lydia's grand niece muses. 'My soul-mate with the auburn plait, my coughing, tearful soul-mate, abandoned by love and consumed with remorse...' A shorter tale 'Lala, Natasha, Toma' follows a similar vein: three vivacious upper-class women must reconsider their dreams and purposes after the revolution. Ironically, Toma who is best able to adapt to the new social order pays most dearly for her effort. 'Philimon and Baucis' is a brilliant, unsettling domestic tale with the mythical characters transposed into Vanya and Zhenya, an elderly couple enjoying their twilight years at their summer cottage. The couple met when Zhenya was a prisoner in one of Stalin's labor camps where Vanya was a commanding officer. Their daughter Tatyana, a single mother, behaves strangely: 'unbalanced by her maternal instincts,' she force-feeds her three-year-old daughter 'like a guinea pig in some bizarre experiment.' An unexpected plot twist makes the story unforgettable. Already a recognized talent in Russian literature, Muravyova should garner praise among English-language readers with this brisk and dynamic work."