There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories

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by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
     
 

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Love stories, with a twist: the eagerly awaited follow-up to the great Russian writer’s New York Times bestselling scary fairy tales

By turns sly and sweet, burlesque and heartbreaking, these realist fables of women looking for love are the stories that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya—who has been compared to Chekhov, Tolstoy, Beckett,

Overview

Love stories, with a twist: the eagerly awaited follow-up to the great Russian writer’s New York Times bestselling scary fairy tales

By turns sly and sweet, burlesque and heartbreaking, these realist fables of women looking for love are the stories that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya—who has been compared to Chekhov, Tolstoy, Beckett, Poe, Angela Carter, and even Stephen King—is best known for in Russia.

Here are attempts at human connection, both depraved and sublime, by people across the life span: one-night stands in communal apartments, poignantly awkward couplings, office trysts, schoolgirl crushes, elopements, tentative courtships, and rampant infidelity, shot through with lurid violence, romantic illusion, and surprising tenderness. With the satirical eye of Cindy Sherman, Petrushevskaya blends macabre spectacle with transformative moments of grace and shows just why she is Russia’s preeminent contemporary fiction writer.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Elissa Schappell
They are deeply unromantic love stories told frankly, with an elasticity and economy of language…A few stories capture a character in a Chekhovian moment of clarity; some read like family lore, recounted without fanfare or urgency; others echo the gossip women exchange like currency. What is consistent is the dark, fatalistic humor and bone-deep irony Petrushevskaya's characters employ as protection against the biting cold of loneliness and misfortune that seems their birthright.
Publishers Weekly
Full of meaningful, finely crafted detail, this story collection set in Russia manages to tackle the grimmest of situations head-on with compassion and a great deal of warmth. In “Two Deities” a one-night stand between a woman in her mid-30s and a man of 20 results in pregnancy and the decision to raise the child together. The troubled “Alibaba” sells her mother’s rare books to get money for drinks and longs to find a man who doesn’t live with his mother or wife, so that she might stay the night. In “Tamara’s Baby” a man named “A.A.” who makes life miserable for his friends by always dropping by unannounced finds contentment with an older woman he meets at a health resort for the indigent. Dasha, in “The Impulse,” shaves her head and ignores her son, who subsists on a diet of ice cream and frozen pizza, because of the stress of her relationship with a married man. The author does a wonderful job evoking the world of shared apartments and heavy drinking, where to get from a village to the capital “one had to ride the train for seven days, then a bus for thirty-six hours, then another bus, which sometimes didn’t run, for seven more.” However cruel the characters are to each other and to themselves, the author is always fair, broadminded, and even loving toward them, making this book both supremely gritty and realistically life-affirming. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“Deeply unromantic love stories told frankly, with an elasticity and economy of language, . . . dark, fatalistic humor and bone-deep irony.” —The New York Times Book Review 

“This gem’s exquisite conjugation of doom and disconnect is so depressingly convincing that I laughed out loud. . . . On par with the work of such horror maestros as Edgar Allan Poe.” —Ben Dickinson, Elle

“Petrushevskaya writes instant classics. . . . These, as the title proclaims, are love stories, scored to a totalitarian track.” —The Daily Beast

“Combines the brevity of Lydia Davis with the familial strangleholds of Chekhov. They’re short and brutal, but often elegant in their economy.” —The Onion A.V. Club

“Full of off-kilter, lurid, even violent attempts at connection.” —Flavorwire, 10 of the Most Twisted Short Stories About Love

“Petrushevskaya’s short stories are painfully good.” —Kelly Link, The New York Times Book Review

“Heartbreaking, but . . . also beautiful and touching in describing how, if not love, at least companionship, can save the most lost souls.” —The Rumpus

“These bitter, funny, and often absurd tales of love between unsuspecting men and women paint a bleak picture of Soviet living and the frequent (im)possibilities of love.” —PopMatters

“An important writer . . . Russia’s best-known . . . She’s a much better storyteller than her American counterparts in the seedy surreal. . . . Petrushevskaya’s stories should remind her readers of our own follies, illusions and tenderness.” —Chicago Tribune

“This is romance Russian-style, ‘tough love’ in its most literal sense, yet somehow, its bleakness is more satisfying in its humanity and aesthetic simplicity than the sugary appeal of so many popular love stories.” —Rain Taxi

“Dark and mischievous . . . [Petrushevskaya’s] stories never flinch from harshness, yet also offer odd redemptions . . . comedic brilliance . . . microscopic precision . . . several inimitable, laugh-out-loud paragraphs . . . creepy early-Ian-McEwan style identity disintegrations [and a] formidable way with a character profile. . . . [The translation, by] Anna Summers, [is] starkly elegant, often wry. . . . Summers also provides a sensitive, informative and insightful introduction. . . . Petrushevskaya . . . ensures herself a place high in the roster of unsettling Writers of the Weird.”  —Locus

“Both supremely gritty and realistically life-affirming . . . Full of meaningful, finely crafted detail.” —Publishers Weekly

“Think Chekhov writing from a female perspective. . . . Petrushevskaya’s short stories transform the mundane into the near surreal, pausing only to wink at the absurdity of it all.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This celebrated Russian author is so disquieting that long after Solzhenitsyn had been published in the Soviet Union, her fiction was banned—even though nothing about it screams ‘political’ or ‘dissident’ or anything else. It just screams.” —Elle

“Her suspenseful writing calls to mind the creepiness of Poe and the psychological acuity (and sly irony) of Chekhov.” —More

“The fact that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is Russia’s premier writer of fiction today proves that the literary tradition that produced Dostoyevsky, Gogol, and Babel is alive and well.” —Taylor Antrim, The Daily Beast

“Her witchy magic foments an unsettling brew of conscience and consequences.” —The New York Times Book Review

“What distinguishes the author is her compression of language, her use of detail and her powerful visual sense.” —Time Out New York

“A master of the Russian short story.” —Olga Grushin, author of The Dream Life of Sukhanov

“There is no other writer who can blend the absurd and the real in such a scary, amazing and wonderful way.” —Lara Vapnyar, author of There Are Jews in My House

“One of the greatest writers in Russia today and a vital force in contemporary world literature.” —Ken Kalfus, author of A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

“A master of the short story form, a kindred spirit to writers like Angela Carter and Yumiko Kurahashi.” —Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen

Kirkus Reviews
Petrushevskaya's (There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby, 2009) short stories transform the mundane into the near surreal, pausing only to wink at the absurdity of it all. The literary collection opens with an informed and knowledgeable introduction by translator Summers, a literary editor born in Moscow. Petrushevskaya, first celebrated as a journalist and a playwright with her prose only published after glasnost, here writes of characters, women most eloquently, mired in environs so dull as to focus their attention toward drink, sex and, most critical of all, a decent apartment in which to live. In "A Murky Fate," a lonely spinster pleads with her mother for privacy to entertain a lover; "insensitive and crude," yet an assignation that brings fulfillment. In "The Goddess Parka," a penniless provincial schoolteacher is seduced by his vacation landlord's distant cousin. "Like Penelope" chronicles an alliance between Oksana, "a girl beloved by her mother but no one else," and Mischa, whose hand-me-downs Oksana wore. In "Two Deities," an older woman and young man contemplate their son, the product of a "few minutes of half-naked passion on the cramped kitchen sofa." The most unconventional is "Hallelujah, Family!" four lives laid out in a list of the 45 notes. Then comes "Give Her to Me," about a struggling composer and lyricist but beyond the starving artist cliché. In "Milgrom," a Lithuanian beauty is robbed of her son. The four concluding stories are "The Adventures of Vera," "Ero's Way," "Young Berries" and "A Happy Ending," where an STD infects a marriage with hate. In these tales of pessimism and gloom, stoicism and resolution, life real and life absurd, Petrushevskaya delivers 17 stories in four groups, many of them cold, dark and vodka-drenched; some rampant with alcoholism and cruelty; and nearly all struggling in contemplation of soul-damaged men and maternal women. Think Chekhov writing from a female perspective, burnished by the ennui of a soulless collectivist state, contemplating the influence of culture and politics on love and relationships.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143121527
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/29/2013
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
1,302,709
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Deeply unromantic love stories told frankly, with an elasticity and economy of language . . . dark, fatalistic humor and bone-deep irony.” —The New York Times Book Review 

“This gem’s exquisite conjugation of doom and disconnect is so depressingly convincing that I laughed out loud. . . . On par with the work of such horror maestros as Edgar Allan Poe.” —Ben Dickinson, Elle

“Petrushevskaya writes instant classics. . . . These, as the title proclaims, are love stories, scored to a totalitarian track.” —The Daily Beast

“Combines the brevity of Lydia Davis with the familial strangleholds of Chekhov. They’re short and brutal, but often elegant in their economy.” —The Onion A.V. Club

“Full of off-kilter, lurid, even violent attempts at connection.” —Flavorwire, 10 of the Most Twisted Short Stories About Love

“Heartbreaking, but . . . also beautiful and touching in describing how, if not love, at least companionship, can save the most lost souls.” —The Rumpus

“These bitter, funny, and often absurd tales of love between unsuspecting men and women paint a bleak picture of Soviet living and the frequent (im)possibilities of love.” —PopMatters

“An important writer . . . Russia’s best-known . . . She’s a much better storyteller than her American counterparts in the seedy surreal. . . . Petrushevskaya’s stories should remind her readers of our own follies, illusions and tenderness.” —Chicago Tribune

“This is romance Russian-style, ‘tough love’ in its most literal sense, yet somehow, its bleakness is more satisfying in its humanity and aesthetic simplicity than the sugary appeal of so many popular love stories.” —Rain Taxi

“Dark and mischievous . . . [Petrushevskaya’s] stories never flinch from harshness, yet also offer odd redemptions . . . comedic brilliance . . . microscopic precision . . . several inimitable, laugh-out-loud paragraphs . . . creepy early-Ian-McEwan style identity disintegrations [and a] formidable way with a character profile. . . . [The translation, by] Anna Summers, [is] starkly elegant, often wry. . . . Summers also provides a sensitive, informative and insightful introduction. . . . Petrushevskaya . . . ensures herself a place high in the roster of unsettling Writers of the Weird.”  —Locus

“Both supremely gritty and realistically life-affirming . . . Full of meaningful, finely crafted detail.” —Publishers Weekly

“Think Chekhov writing from a female perspective. . . . Petrushevskaya’s short stories transform the mundane into the near surreal, pausing only to wink at the absurdity of it all.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This celebrated Russian author is so disquieting that long after Solzhenitsyn had been published in the Soviet Union, her fiction was banned—even though nothing about it screams ‘political’ or ‘dissident’ or anything else. It just screams.” —Elle

“Her suspenseful writing calls to mind the creepiness of Poe and the psychological acuity (and sly irony) of Chekhov.” —More

“The fact that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is Russia’s premier writer of fiction today proves that the literary tradition that produced Dostoyevsky, Gogol, and Babel is alive and well.” —Taylor Antrim, The Daily Beast

“Her witchy magic foments an unsettling brew of conscience and consequences.” —The New York Times Book Review

“What distinguishes the author is her compression of language, her use of detail and her powerful visual sense.” —Time Out New York

“A master of the Russian short story.” —Olga Grushin, author of The Dream Life of Sukhanov

“There is no other writer who can blend the absurd and the real in such a scary, amazing and wonderful way.” —Lara Vapnyar, author of There Are Jews in My House

“One of the greatest writers in Russia today and a vital force in contemporary world literature.” —Ken Kalfus, author of A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

“A master of the short story form, a kindred spirit to writers like Angela Carter and Yumiko Kurahashi.” —Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen

Meet the Author

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya was born in 1938 in Moscow, where she still lives. She is the author of more than fifteen volumes of prose, including the New York Times bestseller There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales, which won a World Fantasy Award and was one of New York magazine’s Ten Best Books of the Year and one of NPR’s Five Best Works of Foreign Fiction; There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories; and a prizewinning memoir, The Girl from the Metropol Hotel. A singular force in modern Russian fiction, she is also a playwright whose work has been staged by leading theater companies all over the world. In 2002 she received Russia’s most prestigious prize, The Triumph, for lifetime achievement.

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There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
MALoesch More than 1 year ago
I was not familiar with Ms. Petrushevskaya prior to receiving this book, but reading her stories was like hanging out with a Russian Eudora Welty. She captured the gritty and dark quality of life in her country during a time filled with angst, worry, and poverty. Many of these stories are very humorous and easy to relate to, but there are other tales that are sad, heartbreaking, and poignant. Judging from the forward, it would appear that her own life was full of those things and that like so many of us, she writes about what she knows. One of my favorite stories was called The Goddess Parker. The plot revolves around a male school teacher called A.A. He is looking for privacy but finds himself becoming friendly with an old woman named Alvetina. Through Alvetina, he meets the most important woman in his life and almost loses her. It is a simple story--one we've even heard before--but it's told in such a way that you can't help but want to read it just one more time. Another story that stood out for me was The Fall. It's about a woman who is the bell of the ball and attracts men by just the way she tosses her hair. Through the use of her feminine wiles, we see her carry on a passionate love affair that both she and the reader know will end badly, but like a car wreck, you just can't seem to look away from it. It feels all too real. Maybe that's the thing about Ms. Petrushevskaya's stories: they feel like people you know. Their highs, their lows--she does an excellent job of drawing the reader in to her world. That quality is what kept me reading each story. By the way, these are short tales. I read the whole book in one sitting, but they are engaging enough to read in small spurts, too. The paperback goes on sale today at Amazon!
51Summers More than 1 year ago
A collection of quick introductions and even quicker closures. The stories bring in characters with such brief introductions but Ludmilla amazes me with her ability to make that person known to me with but a single sentence about them. This is not a novel that spends the whole novel explaining the nature of each character, but instead it is quick and agile interplay between so many people at once. And from a Russian perspective! With each short story I read in this book, I come out knowing everyone in the neighborhood. But I cannot give it five stars; only four. Sometimes I need a little slower of a story; that is to say, with more explanation. I'd love the stories to last a little longer.
gaele More than 1 year ago
The first thing that you will notice is that these are not the pretty fables on which little girls dreams are made: these are tales rich with detail and description about love stories of the real world.  Convenience, anger, arrangement, apathy and even unrequited loves are detailed with direct and detailed language, dark humor and ridiculously twisted circumstances.  A new introduction to the Russian sense of storytelling, in which a happy ending is often little more than fantasy and the author is not obligated to fill your head with fantastical dreams.   Sometimes shocking, certainly more dark and depressing than the secondary title of Love Stories would indicate, Petrushevskaya has a talent for spare and emotionally powerful language that creates visceral reactions to the story, often before the end.  Seventeen entries, each with a tale of the love they see to tell, faerie tales with the hopefulness and wishes, but without the overlay of happy, joyful fantasy but the cold hard reality of real life.  It’s a book that makes you think, effortlessly combining the macabre with the mundane forcing readers to look at the darker side of human nature, it’s there; now deal with it.  I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What is it talking about? I got so confused and I haven't even read the book!!!!!!! What the crap... Not a good read I dont think...