Svetlana Vasilenko

Durochka The Little Fool.
Novel. Vagrius. Moskau 2000. 120 Pages
Awards: Novy-Mir-Prize fort he best novel of 1998, shortlist "Booker Prize 1998"
Foreigh rights: Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, USA

The story of an orphan girl, kept fed by the inhabitants of a village in the steppes of Astrachan. To avoid starvation, her move to an orphanage is planned. The threat of bullying and victimisation in the orphanage leads her to flee, and begin a nomadic life in the steppes. She is saved from drowning in a river by fishermen who believe they have saved a legendary Tatary Princess. Imperceptibly, Hanna metamorphoses into the legendary figure. People make secret pilgrimages to see her. Thirteen years later she returns to the family that abandoned her. However, an atomic war is imminent in her hometown, a military settlement in southern Russia. Children who have been evacuated to the steppe are frightened to sleep out at night. Her brother pleads with Hanna to do something.
An egregious, reduced language, bundles diverse motivational strands into a unique mixture of tragedy and transcendence, creating a shocking and moving story in which the boundaries between the historical past, folklore and legend become blurred. The novel is aimed at Russia’s present aimless and confused self-reflection, a male unconsciousness, seen through the eyes of a mute, defenceless girl, a dumb “little fool”.