Elena Dolgopyat was born and raised in the USSR, trained as a computer programmer in a Soviet military facility, and retrained as a cinematographer post-perestroika. Fusing her diverse experiences with her own sensitivities and preoccupations, and weaving throughout a colourful thread of magic realism, she has produced an unsettling group of fifteen stories all concerned in some way with the theme of estrangement. Elena herself, in an interview given at the time of the book’s launch, said, “Into each of these stories is woven the motif that one’s life is ‘alien’. It is as if you are separate from your own life and someone else is living it. You feel either that your own life is ‘other’, or you experience a yearning for a life you have not led, an envy for some other life.” In his introduction to the collection, Leonid Yuzefovich writes, “Each of Elena Dolgopyat’s stories … painfully stirs the soul with a sense of the fragility, the evanescence, even, of human existence … in her quiet voice, she is telling us of “the multicoloured underside of life”. She is telling us of things that matter to us all.”
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Elena Dolgopyat is from Murom, in the Vladimir region of Russia. She graduated from the Moscow Institute of Railway Engineering (now the Moscow State University of Railway Engineering) in 1986, and worked until 1989 as a programmer at a military facility in the Moscow region. In 1993 she graduated from the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography, and has worked at the State Central Museum of Cinema in Moscow since 1995.
She was first published in 1993, and has published short stories, novella-length works, and several television serial and film screenplays. Her three short story collections are: “Rodina” (“Homeland”, 2016), which was shortlisted for the 2017 Russian National Bestseller prize; “Russkoye” (“Russianness”, 2018); and “Chuzhaya Zhizn” (Someone Else’s Life, 2019), longlisted for the 2020 Yasnaya Polyana prize. The story “The Facility” from Someone Else’s Life was runner-up for the 2020 Babel Prize. Her story “Soobshcheniya s planety” (“Messages from the Planet”), published in the literary journal Novyy Mir in 2021, was longlisted for the fifth annual Babel award.
About the Translator
Richard Coombes has written music, songs and stories of his own, and translates Russian literature (verse, prose, and song lyrics) into English.
Richard’s recently published translations include short stories by Elena Dolgopyat and poetry by Lyudmila Knyazeva, Dmitry Vodennikov and Tatiana Voltskaya in a variety of literary journals; poetry for the Second World War in a poetry collection “Frontovaya Lira” (Poems from the Front), nominated for “Book of the Year 2021” in a category specifically relating to the Second World War; and a variety of poems for the bilingual anthology Disbelief, published by Smokestack Books in January 2023. Richard and his colleagues are already working on a follow-up to Disbelief. Richard’s translations of Pavel Basinsky’s documentary-thriller-biography “Posmotrite na menya” (English title Liza’s Waterfall) is scheduled to be published in 2023. Richard is currently preparing a translation of Alexey Ivanov’s novel “Pishcheblok” (The Food Block).
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