Oleg Zaionchkovski

Sergeev i gorodok Sergeev and the Town.
O.G.I. Moscow 2004. 189 pages
Awards: Shortlist Russian Booker Prize 2004
Short list for the Big Book Award 2010

Sergeev’s wife Natasha has gone to Moscow to visit her dying aunt but has not returned. Filled with grim premonitions, Sergeev canvasses his friends for support and each of them consoles him with a bottle of vodka. Natasha returns a week later but the distress has affected Sergeev’s heart and he has to go into hospital. There he regales his co-patients with stories. He reveals both comic and tragic chapters in the life of this Russian provincial one-horse town and its inhabitants over almost a half century. Sergeev does not single out a specific social class or exemplary hero; the central figure is the town itself, its development over the decades sometimes favouring, sometimes hindering, the one side of society, sometimes the other. Minor characters in one story can be the central figures in the next. This applies to him, too. In his microcosm, Sergeev expresses the biggest changes that Russia has experienced, and continues to experience, in human terms and in so doing makes them truly real and tangible.