Soniecika, by Ludmilla Ulitskaya – one of my few incursions in contemporary Russian lit. I know very very little about Russian literature, I can actually (and easily) count the books I read, written by Russian authors, and I can say from the start that I didn’t like any. A statement that might sound like blasphemy to a looot of people…but I suppose that one day, there’ll come a time when I’ll be more then willing to dip in the sea of Russian sentiment. After all, 5 years ago I used to hate black&white movies, now I’m going through a whole “old movies phase”. The wheel turns… 😀
Now, about Soniecika. I read this short (really short, something like 100 pages) at the recommendation of a good friend who was really into it. And I did try to like it. But I just couldn’t. The story is quite simple: Sonia is a woman of no particular charm or beauty, who read a lot and works in a library. One day, an older man who used to be a famous painter in the West and whom, upon his return in the USSR has lost any kind of status walk in, falls in love with her and asks her to marry him. They have a child, a girl – Tania who also shows artistic potential and who one day brings home her beautiful friend Iasia (who has been a prostitute since the age of 12, when she emigrated from her native Poland). Iasia and Robert start an affair that will expand through a number of years, Sonia knows, but accepts things as they are, always considering herself to be the luckiest woman for having had such a marriage and such a man. When Robert dies, Sonia and Iasia will organize his funeral and a display of his art together. His fame grows in the West and, based partly on that fame and partly on her own merits, his daughter Tania takes on a job in the UN firstly in Israel and then in Switzerland. Iasia returns home, to Poland, and Soniecika remains alone again, with her books, in her dark apartment in the suburbs of Moscow.
That’s it. It is sad, and also very…Balkan, very Eastern, Sonia’s passive acceptance of all that’s coming to her. It’s not even a question of feeling sorry for her, because she doesn’t even seem to be unhappy or to feel like she’s sacrificed anything. After all, her life before the marriage was empty, at least a husband and a growing child allowed her to have some sort of direction in her life. And that’s probably the most important thing, if you want to stay afloat.
In the end, the more I think about it…the book wasn’t all that bad 😉