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New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "The Fugitive" by Lyudmila Ulitskya

Issue: May 12, 2014

Here we have a story by Russian author Lyudmila Ulitskaya, about a dissident artist in communist Russia in the early 70s who escapes questioning and possibly jail by escaping to a small countryside town, where he (I guess) finds some new things out about himself. I read this story through twice, and both times I failed to "get" it.

I would feel remiss as a reviewer if I didn't at least attempt to give my reasons for my dislike and/or misunderstanding of this story. However, I'm just going to have to feel remiss. Sometimes, very occasionally, a story just gets short-shrift for whatever reason. If I have time, which I doubt I will, I'll go back and maybe --- for the third time --- attempt to give this story a real run-down.

For now, I leave you with the following interesting line form the book, in which an old alcoholic peasant woman expresses her opinions on the communist regime:

"Listen, lodger, that new Stalin they have today, they praise him so highly, he'll be even worse than the old one...the old one took everything, and now this one is picking at the leftovers. Oh, they liberated us from everything, those dearies. First they freed me from my land, then from my husband, my children, my cow, and my chickens. Now they'll liberate me from my vodka, and I'll finally be completely free."

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