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9780375700040

33 Moments of Happiness: St. Petersburg Stories

Schulze, Ingo

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9780375700040: 33 Moments of Happiness: St. Petersburg Stories

An intriguing, fabulously bizarre debut collection of short stories by prize-winning German writer Ingo Schulze, author of Simple Stories .

These thirty-three macabre, often comical short pieces revolve around moments of odd bliss–moments seized by characters who have found ways to conquer the bleakness of everyday life in the chaotic world of post-communist Russia.

Peopled by Mafia gunmen, desperate young prostitutes, bewildered foreign businessmen, and even a trio of hungry devils, the stories are by turns tragic and bleakly funny. From a sly retelling of the legend of St. Nicholas featuring a rich American named Nick, to a lavish gourmet feast in which the young female cook ends up as the main dish, these stories are above all playful and even surreal–and many of them are masterful tributes to Russian writers from Gogol to Nabokov.

Translated by John E. Woods.

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Review:

Ever since the 1830s, when Pushkin immortalized St. Petersburg in " The Bronze Horseman," the city has been the capital of the Russian imagination. It also seems to have exerted a powerful influence on the young German writer Ingo Schulze, who celebrates this swampy metropolis in his English-language debut, 33 Moments of Happiness. Not that the author is invariably enchanted by his subject. His 33 slices of Slavic life include some definite downers, not least a bloody (yet oddly comical) shootout in a disco. For one of Schulze's narrators, in fact, St. Petersburg encapsulates all the defects of an entire nation: "Russians in general seem to have been so conditioned by some lifelong experiment that apathy marches in step with an astounding ingenuity for humiliating others. Everything is contrived to cause people the greatest possible unpleasantness, whether it's a lack of benches, mirrors hung too low, repairs that go on for years or the shopping, which requires standing in line three times for a pat of butter." Still, many of the characters manage to grasp some genuine bliss, even if it's simply the scent of an imported perfume or a poppy-seed pastry. These minor ecstasies--and the sizzling, sardonic pleasures of the prose--ensure that the reader's happiness will be anything but momentary. --James Marcus

From the Back Cover:

"Schulze writes so hypnotically that he can make you suspend your sense of the impossible."? The New York Review of Books

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