The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight | Granta

  • Published: 01/04/2010
  • ISBN: 9781846270093
  • 128x20mm
  • 384 pages

The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight

Gina Ochsner

In her very dusty provincial museum of fake exhibits lovingly crafted from cardboard, wire and glue, Tanya dreams of Russian art’s long colours and wonders when Yuri will stop fishing long enough to notice how she adores him, while she tries the zero-one-zero diet in order to meet Aeroflot’s maximum waist requirements for trainee cabin crew. When her boss at the museum gives her the vast responsibility of cultivating some potential benefactors from America, and persuading them to give their money to the very needy All-Russian All-Cosmopolitan City Museum, Tanya finds herself involuntarily enlisting all her neighbours in the scheme. But their shared hopes of riches and dreams of escape start to rot. And the rounded corpse of Mircha in the courtyard refuses to decompose, as the snow turns it into a hill, and its spirit takes flight around the apartments, dispensing more advice than anyone desires, goading the men, annoying the women, in a block where too many mothers and fathers are missing and too many memories lie stagnant on old battlefields.

This is a crazy adventure of the imagination, both hilarious and occasionally puzzling. With it, Ochsner joins a small but inspiring band of US-based (she lives in Oregon) writers exploring the post-Soviet landscape. This book has echoes of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated, Gary Shteyngart's laugh-out-loud Absurdistan and Olga Grushin's more romantic The Dream Life of Sukhanov.

Viv Groskop, Observer

Ochsner's first achievement is to make us feel intensely complicit in the tragicomedy of her characters ... Her second feat is the prose, which sparkles with wit and originality at every turn, while the characters' inner worlds glow with humanity ... Ochsner has created a heartbreaking comic masterpiece that already has a place in the literature of protest.

Kapka Kassabova, Guardian

From Gogol to Bulgakov, Russian literature has long deployed surrealism as a means of confronting the absurdity of Russia's governments ... Oschner paints a vibrant portrait of a community with featherweight beauty and gentle humour.

Claire Allfree, Metro

The Author

Born in 1970, Gina Ochsner has worked as a dog-walker, a substitute teacher, and in a shop selling cheese and puppets, and now lives in western Oregon with her husband and four children. Her collection of stories People I Wanted to Be was published to wide acclaim in 2005 and The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight was longlisted for the Orange Prize.

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From the Same Author

People I Wanted To Be

Gina Ochsner

From the Russian couple haunted by the ghosts of children they never had, to the man who buys a mynah bird in the hope of saving his marriage, these are people who feel that their lives are loose skins they’ve not quite grown into and perhaps won’t ever fit. The world they inhabit is one of half-forgotten dreams and unwhispered yearning. And yet each of them is about to embark upon a journey in which inspiration is found in the most unlikely places, reality is catapulted to the edge of the possible, and even the blackest despair can be illuminated by small, improbable miracles.