So here's what's on my list.
I heard about Sana Krasikov's The Patriots from my favourite podcast, Unorthodox. I was intrigued by the book because it's about people who immigrate from Russia, and then go back. Who does that? Lots of people, apparently, and guess what? It never ends well. You may think life in Canada or the US is problematic, or you may have high revolutionary ideals, but returning to the Mother Country is a sure way to become suspect by the Communist government. This is, of course, hindsight, and it does make for excellent fiction. Krasikov's novel is about three generations of Russians who return. I'm looking forward (sort of) to reading about the Cold War years, and about current life in Russia.
Next on my list is Eva Stachniak's The Chosen Maiden. This historical novel takes place before and during World War One, earlier than the time period I'm interested in, but it's about Bronia and Vaslav Nijinsky, famous Russian dancers. I love a book about dance and this one is even blurbed by Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of one of my favourite dance books, The Painted Girls. This historical novel promises to shed light on the remarkable career of Bronia Nijinsky and the role politics played in her career. (I'm guessing being a ballerina in Communist times wasn't fun. Sigh.)
Okay, this is off topic of Russian books, but it's always good to talk about dance. I've endured many terrible dance movies with bad plots and poor acting- injured dancers, dancers with unreliable partners, choreographers who just don't understand- but if you want to watch a fantastic dance film, check out Ballet 422 on Netflix. It's a documentary of the New York City Ballet's 422nd original ballet choreographed by Justin Peck. I loved the way the film takes the viewer from the original ideas behind the choreography and then through rehearsals, costuming, lighting, to the final performance. Justin Peck is also kinda dreamy. Please enjoy his ballet "The Times Are Racing," filmed in the NY subway system.
One of my favourite podcasts, 99% Invisible also had a great show about Russia recently. 99% Invisible bills itself as the podcast about the "unnoticed architecture and design that shapes our world." I've learned about the US postal service, the urban planning of Salt Lake City, and my favourite episode, a phone booth in the Mojave Desert. In the episode, The Falling of the Lenins, old statues of Lenin are taken down in Kiev, Ukraine and other Ukrainians cities, revealing generational gaps and fissures in attitudes towards the Ukraine's Soviet past. While listening to it in the car, a small voice complained from the back seat, "Why are we always listening to things from Russia?" I had a huge flash back to myself complaining to my father about his obsession with Russian history. I didn't have an answer for my son at the time, but I'll be formulating one as I start reading about Russia, and when I eventually get to reading about Russian Jews, and just maybe, Russian Jews who decide to leave Canada and go back to Russia.
Oh wait, I just remembered a novel by a Russian author that isn't depressing. In fact, it is quite funny. David Bezmogis' Natasha and Other Stories is the story of Mark Berman and his parents, who have fled Riga for Toronto. And, not only is Natasha a great read, but now it's a film. Even if the film does have a darker side- Mark's new cousin turns out to have a double life as a sex-worker- the trailer makes me long for the kind of summer where you ride your bike aimlessly, smoke cigarettes by a pool at night, and have few obligations. Yes, I'm reading for summer, or at least spring-like weather.