Blog • The love of little people, always, and death: the last Ulitskaya

The body of the soulby Ludmila Oulitskaïa, translated from Russian by Sophie Benech, Gallimard editions, 2022.

Ludmila Oulitskaïa, undoubtedly the most widely read Russian writer in the world today, returns in the latest collection of short stories, Le corps de l’âme, to the little people she awakened with so many talents and people. , and approaches, peacefully, the theme of death, similar to a colorful consolation to the unknown.

Two poems, eleven short stories, the form of the story that he says he now favors in the novel, the beauty of Ludmila Oulitskaïa, 79, is again moving strongly in the texts where the shadow finally flies. “I’ve entered the last stage / And it doesn’t matter if it’s sweet or sour / It flows in the last sense (…) The curtain falls. A dark cabinet / Is there anyone here? Or nobody? he wrote one of the poems. The body of the soul translated by Sophie Benech, Oulitskaïa’s faithful translator for many years.

Many characters breathe their last in some kind of pantheistic impulse. God’s word is not spoken. Goodness and light reign, the wonderful novelty of Oulitskaïa. So, Kogan (The autopsy), who died in his sleep, was greeted by “a bright little music that sounded very softly (…) There was not the slightest suspicion of the supernatural in that. It’s really impressive.”

Or Nadiejda Guéorgievna (The snake), “the bibliographer of the old days, before computers”. It is hard to imagine that Ludmila Oulitskaïa did not feel a very special tenderness for this book-loving character, who had an impeccable memory, and who gradually lost all her mental faculties in the end in his life, to the great despair of his family. Death can also be a liberation and a revelation for him. “Everything he learned from books, from the school grammar book to a selection of texts on ancient history, from the proof of the Pythagorean theorem to the structure of phloems, all this is only a small part of space that opens up to him. This intelligent chaos invites him to join him, he needs him (…) This luminous world has no boundaries. It advances, unfolds, expands and turns like a winding road . »

At peace with himself

Finally, the touching story of Tolik (A man in a mountain landscape), a frank spirit that expresses itself, that defies all predictions, thanks to photography, the way of artistic expression that awaits it, and whose body mysteriously disappears.

Ludmila Oulitskaïa does not seem to be afraid of death. We imagine him at peace with himself, after a particularly fruitful work life, but also difficulties, illness, a country we left with the war in Ukraine. An opponent of Vladimir Putin, Ludmila Oulitskaïa now lives in Berlin. “But what is my luck, and what is my luck,” he wrote in the same poem.

One of the treasures of Oulitskaïa’s texts is the awakening of completely different worlds that the reader knows how to date immediately, that of the Soviet years that defined him and that he speaks so well, with these modest and noble creatures in the face of many daily obstacles. “What Lilia liked best about her was her glasses, we didn’t make one like that at home” (L’étrangère). And then, there is today’s Russia, another world, where borders happily cross, like these two women in love living in Cyprus in The Dragon and the Phoenix.

Ludmila Oulitskaïa has not forgotten the lost years and knows how to talk about them like no one else. This did not stop him from staying close to his time. All his work evokes the transformation of a world since the distant Soviet years and what it represents in thoughts and behavior. One of the miracles of the effectiveness of fiction!

A very simple story

A news of our liking, The stranger. The author is definitely thinking of making a novel out of it, the theme is so rich and beautiful. A very simple story, again, spanning decades and a lost Soviet world, in about thirty pages. Lilia marries against her will Saleh, a young Iraqi who is somewhat awkward, studying in Moscow. He disappeared, leaving her a little girl. With sensitivity and humor, because despite everything, we always smile The body of the soulLudmila Oulitskaïa suppresses the reader’s suspicions until the end of the story and everything ends well, as it should be for her, more love for people wins over bitterness or despair.

Nothing is more foreign to Ludmila Oulitskaïa than the twilight and desperate literature. “For the first time in her life, she felt a burning surge of love and tenderness that she had never experienced before, and little Victoria, accustomed to the strict control of her mother’s education, responded with unconditional love – a love that can. last a lifetime.”

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