A Corner House in Moscow by Mikhail Osorgin

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This outstanding and greatly neglected novel of the war, revolution, civil war and early Bolshevik rule first appeared in English in 1930 under the title Quiet Street. At the story's centre is a family, Grandfather (an ornithologist), grandmother and grandchild living in a corner house in Sivtsey Vrazhek and it is through their experiences and those of their circle that we glimpse the surrounding momentous events. It was not the author's intention to fashion an abstract historical sweep but rather to focus on the experiences of individuals (and even some of those from the animal kingdom). For Osorgin, nature is a more powerful force in life than the solipsistic beliefs of humankind. At the heart of 'A Corner House in Moscow' is the portrait of the coming-of-age granddaughter, Tanyusha, and her development as an individual in spite of the surrounding chaos. Indeed, a host of memorable characters grace the novel including Stolnikov, the young university graduate who volunteers in 1914, becomes an officer and wins the St George Cross but ultimately loses both his arms and legs to an artillery shell. In the hospital he became known as 'the trunk'. 'The doctors said: "A miracle. Just look at him. There's nature for you."' Written in very short chapters, the wealth of the novel is in the vignettes of individuals and incidences. Cumulatively, they combine to affirm life over death and individuals over ideology.
Binding: Paperback / softback

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