Maxim Osipov, who lives and practices medicine in a town ninety miles outside Moscow, is one of Russia’s best contemporary writers. In the tradition of Anton Chekhov and William Carlos Williams, he draws on his experiences in medicine to write short stories. This is his first collection in English.
The twelve scintillating short stories in Rock, Paper, Scissors and Other Stories, the first English collection by cardiologist Maxim Osipov, are brilliant. Not one disappoints. Osipov’s style and subjects are reminiscent of Anton Chekhov and Ivan Turgenev ... encourages hope of survival in a sometimes hopeless world. It opens windows to unknown, unseen, unheralded lives.
It’s not clear how the editor, Boris Dralyuk, and the other two expert translators, Alex Fleming and Anna Marie Jackson, selected the stories. I’m guessing it’s to show Osipov’s admirable range of characters and presentations — but soon it should be up to someone to take on the full contents of individual volumes ... Though immersed in his life as a doctor, Osipov is a literary soul, and he regularly quotes from or refers to the classics; maybe the short form and plays just happen to fit the speed of busy doctors. We know he’s not Chekhov, though, who in his early 20s dashed off stories seemingly between patients. And Chekhov didn’t exhibit any of Osipov’s hesitancy about how to do this business of telling a story. Osipov is more deliberate, and a couple of the stories feel overworked, fit for The New Yorker. Like Chekhov, he dates the completion of each story ... I don’t jump on every Russian literary bandwagon I see wheeling past, but I’ll jump on this one.
... a marvelous collection of short stories in which not very much happens ... Osipov clearly carries the weight of Chekhov’s and Bulgakov’s influence not only in his mix of professions, but also in his sense of humor—which is, to say the least, deadpan. Like Chekhov, too, many of Osipov’s stories meander along without a clearly delineated plot or, in the end, a sense of resolution. He is clearly concerned with Russia’s place in the modern world. Several stories, including the one about the airport-hopping doctor, comment on the way that Americans, at least superficially, seem to be driven by rules and regulations, a need for order. Back home, all those things have a way of going to hell ... Remarkable stories, threaded through with a bleak humor, describe life in the provinces of a Russia attempting to contend with the modern world.