Is it possible to cultivate fundamental human values if you live in a totalitarian state? A teacher who has organised the school theatre sets out to prove that it is. Whilst the pupils rehearse Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies under her ever-vigilant eye, Soviet life begins to make its brutal adjustments. This story can be called a book about love, the tough kind of love that gets you through life and death.
Little Zinnobers is especially fascinating for British readers as we see Shakespeare’s famous sonnets and plays touchingly brought to life by the Russian children and their gifted teacher, the novel’s heroine. The teacher applies some of the playwright’s satire to the socio-political situation of the USSR, while also using her English lessons to teach her students life’s broader lessons.
Echoes of the Soviet Union can be felt in our own society today: people find themselves increasingly at odds with politicians’ hypocrisy, ‘big brother’ is watching us through thousands of CCTVs, whilst political correctness determines what we can and cannot say. It is these subtle undercurrents which help make Chizhova’s novel particularly pertinent for today’s readership. Apart from being a magnificently written first-rate story, Little Zinnobers is unique in the fact that it goes beyond the realm of politics and fiction to shed a new light on the relevance of British literary heritage today.
Published with the support of the Institute for Literary Translation, Russia.