Mikhail Shishkin’s Maidenhair

Here’s my essay on a Russian and English reading of Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin, twice winner of the Russian Big Book Prize (sounds better in Russian).

“In Maidenhair, the haunting trauma of a Russian background, exotic to most Americans, shapes characters’ lives, whether they are victims or perpetrators of violence. In contrast, Westerners in the novel make naïve attempt to “have” such experiences. Despite the suffering depicted in it, through this juxtaposition of cynicism and naïveté, experience and innocence, Maidenhair achieves a poignant beauty.”