ELKOST International Literary Agency

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Choir, 2010

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Rights sold to: Russia - Volga (magazine rights), EKSMO, Spain - AUTOMATICA

Winner of 2011 Russian Literary Award

Set in the post-WWII Europe, Choir depicts the life of a mixed Dutch-Russian family between 1945 and 1960. The novel opens in 1945, when a young Anders (his name means ‘different’ both in German and Dutch) was just released from a Nazi internment camp and then hired as a fremdarbeiter (foreign worker) to a remote German farm. There he falls in love with a Russian OST-arbeiter girl (slave workers gathered from Eastern Europe to do forced labor in Nazi Germany during WWII). Soon after they met, the farm was ravaged and destroyed by the Red Army. Strong character of the girl helps her and Andres to escape, and they head towards Anders’s homeland, the Netherlands.

Their married life in a post-war Netherlands was quite idyllic for some time, but a disaster came when the woman incidentally met other displaced Russians and joined a local Russian folk choir. Only then did Anders feel a deep-rooted cultural gap between himself and his wife. Long years of a tense psychological conflict within their by all other means secured family, and his diverse attempts to restore a family happiness constantly crashing against woman’s devotion to a choir singing, lead Anders to commit suicide, leaving his wife to her choir.

Paley’s novel is a tragic and heart-stirring story of love. The novel’s style bears a slight resemblance to a Biblical parable, though author’s narrative manner is rather vintage, classical, with plenty of a intentionally long, Proust-like descriptions of objects and details, morphologically stressing the insuperable contradictions between European material culture and intelligible Russian spirituality.