Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny
by Witold Szabłowski, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
The Dancing Bears Park is Europe’s largest sanctuary for bears rescued from captivity. Located in Belitsa, in the Rila Mountains of southwest Bulgaria, it is a major tourist site. The park is managed by Four Paws, an international animal welfare organization that has been liberating circus and performing bears in …
The Girl from the Metropol Hotel: Growing Up in Communist Russia
by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, translated from the Russian and with an introduction by Anna Summers
Fame came late to Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, one of Russia’s most admired living writers, best known for her scary stories about Soviet family life. It was not until she turned fifty, at the height of glasnost in 1988, that she emerged on the literary scene. For many years before that she …
Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs
by Douglas Smith
Divers brought up the frozen body of Gregory Rasputin from beneath the ice of the Malaya Nevka River in St. Petersburg on December 18, 1916. The wooden supports of the Large Petrovsky Bridge, from which his body had been thrown into the water, were stained with blood where he had …
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated from the Russian by Bela Shayevich
When she won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature, Svetlana Alexievich was little known outside Belarus and the former Soviet Union where her books were published in Russian. Those that had been translated into English had appeared with small presses. Newspapers scrambled to find out who the Belarusian writer was …
In Flaubert’s Parrot (1984), his best-known novel, Julian Barnes recounts the scene in L’Éducation sentimentale where Frédéric, its hero, “wanders through an area of Paris wrecked by the 1848 uprising” and notices “amid the chaos” things that have survived by chance: He sees a clock, some prints—and a parrot’s perch.
Lina and Serge: The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev
by Simon Morrison
Among the wives of famous men who languished in the Gulag, few had a more tragic tale to tell than Lina Prokofiev, the wife of the composer, who in 1948 was sentenced to twenty years in the labor camps of the far north for “treason to the motherland.” Soviet Russia …
It’s not hard to see why Mikhail Bulgakov’s books are so often dramatized. He was himself a dramatist, and adapted his own novel The White Guard (1925) for the stage. His prose is highly visual, full of humorous incidents, theatrical in atmosphere, and frequently surreal—all qualities that lend it to the stage and screen. But not all his books were written in that vein. A new television series starring Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe shows that Bulgakov is becoming better known, but not necessarily through his own words.
This is an enjoyable series. There are strong performances, especially from Jon Hamm, who is wonderful to watch for his subtle blend of mordant humor and self-loathing. But it is far from a faithful version of A Country Doctor’s Notebook.