Oleg Zaionchkovski

Zagul The Wedding Anniversary.
AST Publishers. Moscow 2011. 181 pages
Awards: Long listed for the Big Book Award 2011

It is Nefedov's wedding anniversary. Not the first one but not the tenth either. He couldn't say exactly. Actually, he doesn't even know that today is the day as he leaves the company as usual. Nevertheless, he heads in precisley the right direction, straight home, as he has done for decades after leaving the office. At the moment, anyway. Then he meets his friend who takes him off for a spin in his resprayed sports car. New colour, new girlfriend. The eternal bachelor and the well-behaved husband land up in a sports stadium, which is in fact closed, the only place in their provincial backwater for an undisturbed celebration with a mate and a bottle or two.
Nefedov's  wife Nadezhda is also back from work as an archivist in the literature museum, the former home af a classic writer. The archivist and her staff use original furnishings in an attempt to conceal from the visitors and from themselves the fact that the true soul of the museum has been lost: the ominous but stolen manuscript by the town's most famous resident, an allegedly clairvoyant pamphlet on Russia's future as a demilitarised zone between China and Europe.
While their teenage daughter is putting on her makeup before leaving the house, the wife is preparing the traditional wedding anniversary roast as a dinner for two. And waiting. When her spouse arrives home very late from his little escapade it is all too late. So he leaves again. And that is the start of the big escapade that takes Nefedov to faraway  Moscow. The turbulent paths he travels are paved with thousands of memories of his wife, however. And with a real corpse as well.
When Nefedov returns home some fourty eight hours later he has observed the wedding anniversary with his yearning memories of the loveliest moments in his marriage more intensely than the usual wedding anniversary roast ever did. And he brings with him a wedding anniversary present the likes of which the provincial museum and his wife have never seen. Has Nefedov stopped at nothing in order to save a botched wedding anniversary? The story has not quite reached its happy ending yet.