Novel of the Year Prize (Russia, 2005)
Rights sold to: Austria - Pereprava
MOSCOW TALES consists of twelve narrative stories retelling the universally known folk tales, fairy tales and popular tales such as the adventures of Don Juan, ancient myths of Icarus and of Prometheus, the Invisible Man, a Russian version of the Frog Prince, Little Red Riding Hood, the Magic Carpet, the Flying Dutchman, the Wandering Jew and others. But that’s where the similarities end.
This collection of short stories is updated to modern times; specifically revolving around the city of Moscow during the last days of the Soviet era and the new unbridled pseudo-capitalist era that characterizes Russia today. Moscow has historically been associated with the mysterious Russian temperament and the epitome of the personification of the Russian soul.
Kabakov, the author of perestroika-era hit No Return, has achieved the seemingly impossible in painting a wonderfully integral canvas in which the Flying Dutchman coexists quite happily with a gangster in his jeep and migrant workers build the Tower of Babylon while an oligarch buys doner kebab from a kiosk with the coin that cannot be spent. Red Riding Hood cooks up swindles and deals and her grandmother is the alcoholic widow a literary general. We meet a Chechen war veteran with concussion and a talking frog who turns out to be, on closer inspection, a young Scandinavian princess. Shaven-headed Bohemian types and dissidents trying to emigrate on a flying carpet – they are all in Moscow Tales – a monument and benchmark of the genre.
This is a funny and entertaining book, though also sad at times, but then, a work that looks deep into the events of recent Russian history cannot but be sad.