In the chaos of early-1990s Russia, the wife and stepdaughter of a paralyzed veteran conceal the Soviet Union’s collapse from him in order to keep him—and his pension—alive until it turns out the tough old man has other plans. Olga Slavnikova’s The Man Who Couldn’t Die tells the story of how two women try to prolong a life—and the means and meaning of their own lives—by creating a world that doesn’t change, a Soviet Union that never crumbled.
After her stepfather’s stroke, Marina hangs Brezhnev’s portrait on the wall, edits the Pravda articles read to him, and uses her media connections to cobble together entire newscasts of events that never happened. Meanwhile, her mother, Nina Alexandrovna, can barely navigate the bewildering new world outside, especially in comparison to the blunt reality of her uncommunicative husband. As Marina is caught up in a local election campaign that gets out of hand, Nina discovers that her husband is conspiring as well—to kill himself and put an end to the charade. Masterfully translated by Marian Schwartz, The Man Who Couldn’t Die is a darkly playful vision of the lost Soviet past and the madness of the post-Soviet world that uses Russia’s modern history as a backdrop for an inquiry into larger metaphysical questions.
About the Author
Olga Slavnikova was born in 1957 in Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg). She is the author of several award-winning novels, including 2017, which won the 2006 Russian Booker prize and was translated into English by Marian Schwartz (2010), and Long Jump, which won the 2018 Yasnaya Polyana Award.
Marian Schwartz translates Russian contemporary and classic fiction, including Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and is the principal translator of Nina Berberova.
Marian Schwartz has beentranslating Russian literature for over thirty years, not only fiction butphilosophy, criticism, fine art, and history. She has published many books with such publishers as Harcourt, Knopf,New Directions, Doubleday, Yale University Press, Modern Library, and New YorkReview Books, as well as stories in Two Lines, Grand Street, The LiteraryReview, North American Review, andYale Review, among other magazines, as well as in anthologies.
Olga Slavnikova was born onOctober 23, 1957, in Sverdlovsk, to a family of engineers. She holds a degree in journalism from UralsState University. She has been a memberof the Union of Russian Writers since 1997.
Slavnikova, a novelist and critic, has been publishingprose since 1988. Her first novel, A Dragon-fly Enlarged to the Size of aDog, was on the short list for the Booker Prize (1997) and for theAnti-Booker (1999) and received the P. Bazhov Prize Alone in the Mirror, her second novel,was short-listed for the Anti-Booker and received the Pavel Bazhov Prize. TheMan Who Couldn’t Die, her third novel, won the Apollon Grigoriev Prize and wasshort-listed for both the Belkin Prize and the National Bestseller Prize. Sheis the author of many articles on contemporary literature in all the main“thick journals” and was awarded the Polonsky Prize for her criticism. Since2001, she has been the coordinator for the Debut prize for young writers. r;_
Table of Contents
Introduction by Mark Lipovetsky
The Man Who Couldn’t Die