Category: Short Stories, Realist stories
Author: Kseniya Melnik
This realist short story collection turned out to be such a pleasant surprise! Snow in May is a collection of stories set in and around the Siberian port town of Magadan situated closer to Alaska than to any other major Russian city. Despite a bustling hub, Magadan has a dark and tumultuous past, as it was once a gateway to the Gulag network, Stalin’s cruelest labour camps and stories resonate with a tinge of the town’s dark past.
The characters in Melnik’s stories are normal, working class people, with dreams and aspirations, everyday circumstances, feeling the ripples of the Socialist regime. Her stories stretch from early 1900’s to the early 2000’s and characters from a few re-appear in others creating a beautiful tapestry of life in Soviet Russia across a century.
A former Soviet boss tells his granddaughter a story he’s kept secret for many years, a young pianist has aspirations to save the world, an elderly woman contemplates her daughter’s fate as a mail-order bride, a young woman’s marriage to a Russian soldier takes a toxic turn – A portrait of lives lived on the periphery where seemingly isolated moments are haunting, beautiful and effervescent.
Melnik crafts nine miniature epics that span from Magadan to Moscow to Alaska and back, where her characters lives interconnect in the most interesting ways. The writing style is simplistic, inventive and gorgeously rendered. There’s an edginess in her tone that makes you want to turn the page and keep reading.
This collection reminded me, in a way, of Accusation by Bandi, a collection of forbidden stories, first of it’s kind, to be smuggled out of North Korea and translated to English. In a similar note, it touches on daily lives, in completely different circumstances though. But I feel like if you like one, you’ll most certainly enjoy the other! As is common of collections, a couple of the stories may fall short, but as a whole I thought both were incredibly strong collections and I’d recommend both.