Quick Study: Ludmila Petrushevskaya is one of contemporary Russia’s most distinctive writers: she is especially renowned as a writer of dark and creepy short stories, a dramatist who loves absurdity, and a cabaret performer.
The Petrushevskaya File: Though Ludmila Petrushevskaya wrote during the Soviet era, her work, which often looks at seamy and uncomfortable aspects of life, was generally banned, remaining largely unpublished until perestroika, when her collection Immortal Love came out in the late 1980s. Her novella The Time: Night was a finalist for the 1992 Russian Booker Prize and her work has gone on to be translated into more than two dozen languages: the English-language collection There Once Lived a Woman who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby hit the New York Times bestseller list in late 2009. Petrushevskaya’s plays have been staged in several of Moscow’s best-known theaters… and in venues around the world.
Psssst………: Petrushevskaya, who rewrites song lyrics for her own performances, is quoted in Viv Groskop’s article in FT Magazine (January 14, 2011) saying she enjoys Susan Boyle, “I watch her on YouTube every night. Her story is a real fairy tale.”… Petrushevskaya also paints… She was the inspiration for the heron in Yuri Norshtein’s animated film The Crane and the Heron… Petrushevskaya is known for wearing wide-brimmed hats…
Petrushevskaya’s Places: Born in Moscow… studied journalism at Moscow State University…
The Word on Petrushevskaya: English translations of Petrushevskaya’s work have been widely reviewed by diverse publications, including Kirkus Reviews, which called the Immortal Love collection “the work of a major talent, quite possibly the best Russian writer of her generation,” and The New York Times Book Review, where Ken Kalfus wrote of The Time: Night, “Described in a self-pitying, darkly humorous soliloquy, Anna’s [the narrator’s] descent into the lower depths will remind American readers of our own country’s cycles of poverty, especially the linkage of women’s declining fortunes with untimely pregnancies.”
Petrushevskaya on Petrushevskaya: Petrushevskaya has said that she learned to read in secret, when her family was evacuated to Kuibyshev during World War 2. “The adults discovered this by chance, when I started quoting pieces of A Short Course of the History [of the All-Union Communist Party/bolsheviks] that I’d learned by heart.”
On Writing: In Viv Groskop’s 2011 FT Magazine article, Petrushevskaya says she looks at reality for material to write about, “I think of myself as a documentary writer, collecting documents about people’s lives and reworking them.”
Petrushevskaya Recommends: In a piece on the Russian Snob site, Petrushevskaya is said to like the writings of Marcel Proust and Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili.
Photo credit: David Shankbone, Creative Commons