The debut novel by Alexei Navalny's press secretary, following a woman who is arrested at an anti-corruption rally in Moscow and sentenced to ten days in a special detention center, where she shares a cell with five other women from all walks of life.
Ms. Yarmysh depicts these women with naturalistic humor and affection ... Ms. Yarmysh creates a cumulative portrait of ingrained social evils and violent retribution. I am pleased to say that the novel’s sudden unmasking as a work of Gothic terror caught me completely unawares. If Ms. Yarmysh has written a protest novel, after all, it’s as unpredictable as it is damning.
Verges on becoming an insanity trip ... An unusual prison novel. The stakes are low throughout ... What is Yarmysh up to here? At moments the tone verges on the comic...and you sense the author gently pushing the material into satire. But it’s hard to say, because her abilities as a fiction writer are, at least in this translation, rudimentary. Anya may be filled with irony and ambiguity, but Yarmysh’s writing is not. The characters are two-dimensional; the prose offers few, if any, fresh perceptions; the tone never deepens. From nearly the start, it’s as if Yarmysh is trying to light a green log. If only the most impressively brave among us were the best writers! The world seldom works that way ... It must have hurt to translate something that seems as flat as Yarmysh’s novel does. As the clichés piled up...I began to wonder if Tait had let fidelity trample generosity and sensibility. Another translator might have reached out to Yarmysh and, assuming the clichés were in the original, asked if she really wanted to hang onto them.
The familiar trials and tribulations that everyday Russians face stand out in dramatic effect as Yarmysh illuminates the subtly veiled political dissent within an oppressive society straining at the seams.