Oleg Zaionchkovski

Schaste vozmozhno Happiness is Possible
AST Publishers. Moscow 2009. 189 pages
Awards: Short list for the Big Book Award 2010
Foreign rights: Arabic/ Al Arabi, Bulgaria/ Aviana, Italy/ atmosphere libri, Spain/ meettok, UK/ Andotherstories

A writer, living in Moscow with a small dacha on the outskirts of the city, is hard up and so hires himself out to a large publishing company. He is required to deliver a positive novel on time but he has been unable to come up with anything positive since his wife Tamara ran off. She continues to visit the dacha, however, complete with new lover, to whom he is also required to show the best fishing spots. All that the writer is able to produce is notes about the happiness of others. The country boy (a caricature of himself) who comes to Moscow to land a rich woman, for instance. Yet the writer not only observes happiness, he initiates it, too, by bringing two lonely neighbours together, by giving a new chance to a teacher and her former pupil, whose love was once mercilessly suppressed. Or is he inventing all of this just to console himself? But then happiness does seem to catch up with him, too. Instead of punching the neighbour disturbing his work with the noise of his building work in the nose, in the end he lends him a helping hand with the renovations. And Tamara suddenly starts spending the night in the Moscow flat now and again, ultimately with the news of what had not happened during all the years of marriage: she is pregnant – by him.
"Happiness is Possible" is not only an enjoyable and precisely detailed book about the new type of human beings to be found in the city of Moscow, it is also a mini philosophical guide to happiness. Deadened by the density of the residential tower blocks, the anonymous masses, Zaionchkovski nevertheless teaches his characters to also smell the roses growing through the city asphalt. He teaches them and us about everyday happiness.