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In 2001, Olga Slavnikova published Bessmertniy (“The Immortal”) or, as I like to call it, “The Man Who Couldn’t Die,” about a war veteran kept alive by his wife and stepdaughter, who love him but who also need his pension and go to incredible lengths to prolong his life after he suffers a stroke. (To spare him the shock of the Soviet Union’s collapse, for example, they produce fake newsreels of Communist Party congresses that never happened, combining old footage and footage from the current Duma). His stepdaughter is also involved in the first post-Soviet forays into local politics and media politics. A skillful and moving novel that captures the zeitgeist of the immediate post-Soviet years brilliantly, its reputation was tainted by the subsequent appearance of the film Goodbye Lenin, in 2003.
Marian Schwartz is a prize-winning translator of Russian fiction, history, biography, criticism, and fine art. Her translations include the New York Times bestseller The Last Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky, as well as classics by Mikhail Bulgakov, Ivan Goncharov, and Mikhail Lermontov.
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