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The time of women de Elena Chizhova
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The time of women (edició 2012)

de Elena Chizhova, Simon Patterson (Translator.), Nina Chordas (Translator,)

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453445,032 (3.4)4
Life is not easy in the Soviet Union at mid-20 th century, especially for a factory worker who becomes an unwed mother. But Antonina is lucky to get a room in a communal apartment that she and her little girl share with three elderly women. Glikeria is a daughter of former serfs. Ariadna comes from a wealthy family and speaks French. Yevdokia is illiterate and bitter. All have lost their families, all are deeply traditional, and all become "grannies" to little Suzanna. Only they secretly name her Sofia. And just as secretly they impart to her the history of her country as they experienced it: the Revolution, the early days of the Soviet Union, the blockade and starvation of World War II. The little girl responds by drawing beautiful pictures, but she is mute. If the authorities find out she will be taken from her home and sent to an institution. When Antonina falls desperately ill, the grannies are faced with the reality of losing the little girl they love - a stepfather can be found before it is too late. And for that, they need a miracle.… (més)
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Es mostren totes 3
The time of women has a foreground story set in Leningrad in the early 1960s, when post-war housing shortages were still making life very difficult. A single mother and her small daughter move in with three elderly women, who are happy to give them houseroom in exchange for granny rights. Chizhova exploits the classic device of viewpoints-of-three-generations to look at a century of Russian history as seen by those on the receiving end: the grannies, who come from different strata of society but have all now lost their families, have memories that go back to Tsarist times; the mother was a child during the second world war, and the daughter is able to look back on her childhood from a post-Soviet perspective. But this isn't a historical epic: it's a book about how ordinary women find the physical, social and psychological strength to live through both ordinary and extraordinary hardship, and in particular how religion, storytelling and art play their part in that process.

There's a lot of reference to particularly Russian experiences, but there's also a lot there that is common to people who've lived through extreme situations anywhere in the world. When the mother describes a dream she's had about the communist paradise where money will become obsolete, the grannies immediately conclude that there's another currency reform coming, and want to rush out to hoard food. Exactly what my grandmother would have done. Some things are so painfully engraved in memory that the brain can't cope with jokes or fantasies about them any more.

I found the subject-matter very interesting, but I wasn't so sure about the style and technique. The viewpoint and the first-person narration jumps about between the characters, and this is often not very clearly signalled in the text, so I found myself going back a paragraph or two to try to work out who was speaking. Some of the confusion is obviously intentional, a way of stressing the alliance between the three generations, but I don't think it quite comes off. Maybe the different voices come over more clearly in the Russian original, but in the translation it felt unnecessarily irritating. On the other hand, I thought the use of interpolated stories was very effective (even if it has become something of a cliché of feminist writing...). ( )
2 vota thorold | Jul 6, 2016 |
I found this book interesting. the oppression of women, russian politics were overshadowed by the well written characters. I had a hard time getting into reading this book, and was able to put it down easily, but that isn't to say it wasn't good. It gave a really good sense of what life was like for the characters during this period of russian history. ( )
  MarniGreatrex | Jul 28, 2013 |
According the best Russian tradition, this story is sad, realistic and somehow full of hope. How to find laughter in the deepest sadness. Three old ladies, a poor girl, the Russian way in the fifties, the coming of TV and other things like a machine to make the laundry in the house, a silly young man and a smart little girl. Mix it all together and put some strange, full Russian hope in it. Best recipe ever ( )
  bilja | Dec 12, 2011 |
Es mostren totes 3
"For Western readers unfamiliar with Russian/Soviet history, an especially dramatic read."
afegit per Glagoslav | editaKirkus Reviews (Jul 26, 2012)
 
"Yet like other contemporary Russian texts — Viktor Pelevin's works come to mind — The Time of Women constantly references political events, but is far from a political novel. The regime is oppressive, but so is life itself. Antonina is an abandoned single mother who gets sick with cancer; Suzanna is mute; the grandmothers are old and unwell. One of the primary questions the book addresses is how it is possible to resist oppression in any form and at the same time retain one's humanity.

Chizhova's novel suggests that such resistance is possible. "
 
"It is a richly detailed world of superstition and suspicion, in which the local agents of state power exercise a stifling and often arbitrarily applied control over individual citizens' lives."
afegit per Glagoslav | editaThe West Australian (May 1, 2012)
 
"Through this domestic, and essentially female, business of onion-frying, laundry rotas and petty squabbles, Chizhova tells the story of 20th Century Russia - of superstition and soviet realism, factories and folklore, belief and dissidence, rule and oppression, ignorance, hope and, of course, Russia's insatiable appetite for suffering."
afegit per Glagoslav | editaTetradki, Miranda Ingram (Mar 26, 2012)
 
“There is not much mystery as to how the story will end, but the richness of both characters and atmosphere pulls the reader through a plot whose folktale motifs — ghostly brides, sleeping daughters and scheming old women — are part of a very real world of factories and dormitories haunted by war”.
 
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Life is not easy in the Soviet Union at mid-20 th century, especially for a factory worker who becomes an unwed mother. But Antonina is lucky to get a room in a communal apartment that she and her little girl share with three elderly women. Glikeria is a daughter of former serfs. Ariadna comes from a wealthy family and speaks French. Yevdokia is illiterate and bitter. All have lost their families, all are deeply traditional, and all become "grannies" to little Suzanna. Only they secretly name her Sofia. And just as secretly they impart to her the history of her country as they experienced it: the Revolution, the early days of the Soviet Union, the blockade and starvation of World War II. The little girl responds by drawing beautiful pictures, but she is mute. If the authorities find out she will be taken from her home and sent to an institution. When Antonina falls desperately ill, the grannies are faced with the reality of losing the little girl they love - a stepfather can be found before it is too late. And for that, they need a miracle.

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