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Master of the Grass

Authors: Nina Gabrielyan

Published by Glas New Russian Writing

ISBN: 9785717200660

£8.99
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"Nina Gabrielyan belongs to the literary land inhabited by Hoffmann, Kafka and Gogol... She is a virtuoso analyst of nightmares and children's dreams. She feels at home in the fragile space between dream and reality, penetrating such depths of consciousness, where neither daylight nor traditional psychology can reach. Her imagery stays in your mind long after you've finished reading her... Her poetic and profound stories are about the deep and secret bond existing among all objects and phenomena in this world." — Ludmila Ulitskaya, winner of the Russian Booker Prize.

The reader can't resist Gabrielyan's happy amazement at the unceasing wonders of the world she sees all around her. Ordinary objects in her stories reveal their multiple guises so that their only constant feature is their changeful nature. Moving from the real to the surreal, she invites the reader to come with her into these two realities, which eventually turn out to be one and the same, a place where the magic and the mundane merge, a reality that may be tragic or ridiculous.

In the title story, Master of the Grass, Gabrielyan depicts the evolution of a narcissistic man and his young artist wife. As a boy he is fascinated with his own reflection in the mirror. He repeatedly attempts to enter that land beyond the looking glass. What begins as a childish game turns into genuine Narcissism, damaging his own life and that of his wife Polina. Gabrielyan revisits and recasts certain of these episodes and characters in Bee Heaven, about a young artist named Olesya. Olesya resembles Polina, but this time she is the adopted daughter of an old woman dying in a hospital, through whose delirium we learn the story of her lonely life. In The Studio Apartment, a single woman communicates with her apartment as though it were a living being. The apartment is her micro-cosmos and her best friend, reacting in very different ways to successive pretenders to her heart. In The Lilac Dressing Gown a sensitive girl takes refuge from an insensitive world in her imagination and never more effectively than when she sneaks into her parents' wardrobe to try on her mother's elegant dressing gown. In Hide and Seek an elderly Armenian couple mentally go back to the days of their youth, thus reconstructing several decades of tragic Armenian history.

Also a distinguished painter, Gabrielyan brings her art to her stories whose vivid descriptions of people and objects reflect her abiding fascination with the miracle of transformation and the "fragile carapace that separates us from death". In her canvases women resemble glazed vases while jugs crane their slender necks like women. Endless passages and caves form an underground kingdom inhabited by mystical creatures. In that fairytale world, everything is larger than life, the colors are brighter and the shadows are deeper.

Nina Gabrielyan, an Armenian by birth, grew up in Moscow. A leading feminist and noted scholar, she coordinates the "Women and Creativity" program and writes for various journals on women and culture. She has two collections of poems and two collections of stories to her credit as well as numerous translations of Armenian poetry from the Middle Ages to the present.
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