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Anna Lavrinenko

YAROSLAVL STORIES

Translated by Christopher Tauchen and Amanda Love Darragh

200 pp., ISBN 978-5-7172-0126-1

“Lavrinenko writes in the style of Chekhov and Turgenev and shows how traditional provincial life is affected by modernity.” – Literary Review

“The young writer Anna Lavrinenko has admirably succeeded in conveying an acute sense of the fragility of adolescent love, always on the point of self-annihilation… She keeps the reader in constant tension despite an apparently artless story about love between two lonely unremarakable teenagers. Her stories suggest an emotional depth and provide much food for thought.” – Vladimir Makanin, Booker Prize winner

“Lavrinenko explores the anguish that weighs on her generation with time going by. Deliciously bitter-sweet.” – Sonia Desprez, GRAZIA magazine

The stories in the collection are concerned primarily with the difficult process of coming of age. They are about young people who see themselves as different--outcasts, oddballs, freaks--and who, through some experience of love (and loss), grow up. One of Anna's strengths is that she is able to write well and convincingly about this process while she herself is so young, giving her a much closer perspective. Her characters are honest, earnest and eager, while at the same melodramatic and naive: just like real young people. Obviously this "Ugly Duckling"-type story is a well worn one, but it is also a timeless story that she has managed to make new again.
The city of Yaroslavl plays a significant role in the book. Epiphanies and other insights tend to happen while characters are out roaming the city, usually at night, most often down by the Volga embankment. The main connection of the city to this theme that unifies Anna's stories is the meeting of the two rivers at the Strelka. The small tributary grows larger, but the moment where it "grows up", as it were, occurs in an instant as it joins the Volga (i.e. "adulthood").
One other aspect of her work that bears mentioning is that of the influence of Western pop culture (primarily music) on this generation of Russians. This is more or less the first generation to have unrestricted access to such things throughout their teenage years. I'm not sure how (or if) this should be marketed, but it is interesting in any case. The teenagers in these stories who listen to death metal, wear dreadlocks, and play in bands are, well, extremely familiar to us as Western readers. This is an unexpected and welcome find.

Anna Lavrinenko (b. 1984) lives in Yaroslavl (Central Russia). A Law graduate she works as a company lawyer in Yaroslavl as well as taking an active part in the city’s cultural life: she leads a reading group there and reviews books and films for the local press. Her short stories and essays have been published in the top literary and art magazines. Her L’enfant perdu came out in French from L’Aube in 2013.
Winner of the Debut Prize in 2006, Lavrinenko follows the tradition of the great 19th-century Russian literature.
Lavrinenko is in love with her native city of Yaroslavl where all her stories take place. But apart from the ancient cathedrals she shows you the nooks and crannies you’ll never find in any travel guides: the real adventure begins where the touristy trail ends.

Lavrinenko’s narratives, warm-hearted, absorbing, and perceptive, are set in the 1000-year-old city of Yaroslavl which provides a vivid backdrop rich in details which go unseen by tourists. She describes its various communities, the local celebrities, some extraordinary events, providing insightful portrayals of a modern-day Russian hinterland. She is concerned primarily with the difficult process of coming of age. Her characters are young people who see themselves as different – outcasts, oddballs, freaks – and who grow up through some experience of love and loss.