Viktoria Fomina

The last decade's radical changes in what used to be the Soviet Union have produced a burgeoning Russian literary scene on which continuities with the various traditions are sought, debated, mocked, avoided. Viktoria Fomina, this spring's writer-in-residence at the UI International Programs can perhaps be said to be part of the post-modern wave which is slowly sedimenting to become a tradition in itself. Her sprawling Marquesian add-on novel A Letter to the Colonel combines the bulk of her past work in a kaleidoscopic scan of the decade, processed through an unmistakably gendered perspective. Below are two samples: "A Journey in C-Minor," (PDF) a diary-like account of two teenager girls let loose on a Westward adventure at the moment when the paint has barely dried on the new sign "Russia" substituting the old "USSR."

Everything on the road is a new toy–including Paris which seems largely populated by the debris of the émigré Soviet intelligentsia. Ten years later, in "Marble Meat," (PDF) the journey is reversed and a bit less cheerful: the émigrés are now monomaniacal Russian meat traders settled in Chicagoesque slaughterhouses who come scouring Moscow to secure fresh supplies, in the process stumbling over homeless debris of the ancien Soviet régime. But if the tone is less cheerful it is nonetheless not moralizing. The staccato neologisms and the flurry of details don't put up with the drag of judgment. Fomina's eye roves keen.

Nataša Ďurovičová

Anna Barker, the translator of A Letter to the Colonel, teaches and writes in Iowa City.