Annotated Russian reader for intermediate (B1-B2) level includes three great short stories by Ludmila Ulitskaia: Paper victory, Cabbage Miracle, and Nails. Each story includes side glosses, stress marks, comments, exercises, and full glossary.
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|Publisher||Russia Online Inc.|
Annotated Russian reader for intermediate (B1-B2) level includes three great short stories by Ludmila Ulitskaia: Paper victory, Cabbage Miracle, and Nails. Each story includes side glosses, stress marks, comments, exercises, and a full glossary.
Ludmila Ulitskaya, one of Russia’s most acclaimed contemporary prose writers, began her literary career with a book of stories for children, and later published a series of stories about young girls growing into adolescence during the post-Stalin period of the 1950s. The three short stories in this reader provide a window into the Soviet childhood experience in the years 1945-49 when the country was just beginning to recover from the devastation and hardships caused by the Second World War. The stories are semi-autobiographical, based on Ulitskaya’s childhood memories, and each portrays child protagonists facing challenging situations in everyday life. Ulitskaya’s detailed descriptions of landscape (litter-strewn courtyard), objects (worn out overshoes), sounds (the tapping of a sewing machine), smells (of sheepskin and horse harness), weather (the biting cold and overcast sky of late fall, the melting dirty snow of early spring), evoke the atmosphere and harsh realities of Russian life in the early postwar years; yet each of these stories ends on an optimistic note, engendering hope for a better future.
In “Paper Victory,” nearly all the neighborhood children have lost their fathers in the war, while the hero of the story, a young schoolboy named Genya, does not even know who his father was. Genya is an unhappy boy whose ridiculous surname is a source of deep humiliation, and whose frequent illnesses, constantly stuffed nose, and limping gait make him a target for teasing and bullying by his classmates and the other children in the courtyard. When his mother and grandmother decide to invite the neighborhood kids, including his “enemies,” over to celebrate Genya’s birthday, the boy resists the idea, but at the party, he inadvertently reveals a hidden artistic talent, which delights the children and wins their admiration and respect.
In “Cabbage Miracle,” the protagonists are six-year-old Dusya and her younger sister Olga, whose father was killed at the front, and whose mother died a year later. Left orphans, the two little girls are sent to live with a great-aunt whom they have never met. At first, the children are unable to speak and cling to each other in fear, while their great-aunt, a stout old woman whose feet can barely carry her, is less than joyful at the arrival of the girls and unsure she will let them stay with her. However, when the old woman sends the little girls out to a vegetable stand to buy cabbage, an amazing “miracle” occurs, one that is manifested on several levels but most importantly, on the emotional level. When the children don’t return home when expected, the old woman is terrified that something awful may have happened to them and she realizes how much they mean to her, leaving the reader with the comforting thought that the orphaned little girls and the childless old woman may have found in each other a new family.
The protagonist in “Nails” is a city boy, Seryozha, who must adjust to unfamiliar ways of rural life, when he is sent for the summer to his great-grandfather who lives in a faraway village. Expecting to spend the summer playing and getting to know his cousins, Seryozha instead ends up doing woodworking chores with his great-grandfather, who teaches him the proper way to hammer and extract nails and to use other tools. Though the boy internally questions the point of learning how to do seemingly pointless tasks, ultimately Seryozha comes to understand the wisdom of his great-grandfather, the significance of what he has taught him, including one of life’s most profound lessons.
These are touching, masterfully-told stories, which taken together, paint a vivid picture of childhood experiences in postwar Russia, and will, as Ulitskaya intended, help preserve the memory of this historical period for future generations of Russians.