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Lagraziana's Kalliopeion

This is a blog about my reads as well as everything related to them.

My taste is for good quality literature - old and new. Some of it I review here or on my main book blog Edith's Miscellany.



An American in Moscow or: Lenin Lives Next Door by Jennifer Eremeeva

Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow - Jennifer Eremeeva

When I won Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow by Jennifer Eremeeva as a GOODREADS giveaway, it was shortly before the beginning of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. When the book arrived with me, the competitions in the subtropical mountains of the Caucasus were running smoothly (with the inevitable exception of the one or other discovered case of doping). And when I finally got to reading the stories about expatriate life in Moscow, the athletes had left or were about to leave the high safety zone at the Black Sea.


In her first book Lenin Lives Next Door the author compiled and fictionalised a series of funny episodes drawn from her own life as an American living in Russia for almost thirty years. The protagonists of her stories are the people around her including her Handsome (sometimes Horrible or Helpful) Russian Husband (HRH) and a number of types salting the expatriate community in Russia like just for example the good white and the less good red queen or the gay interior designer from Venezuela. Of course, the focus is on living conditions in Russia from the late 1980s to today, on business rules and habits of the native population which can seem very strange to an American and often less strange, in some cases even normal to an Austrian. Necessarily the book is full of stereotypes. For example the author comes up with the theory that you can deduce the character and life of any Russian woman from the first name that she has been given. It goes without saying that annoying aspects get a lot of room there… like in most chapters. This seems to be a necessary ingredient of humorous literature today so it’s not really the author’s fault that her picture of Russia and Russians rather dips towards the negative than to the positive side. The book certainly doesn’t inspire me to go to Russia any time soon! Nor does the current political situation there.


All in all, I must say that I don’t appreciate it very much when an author produces or just passes on unflattering stereotypes on purpose, even if they are funny as in this case. I prefer humour with a more positive and self-critical undertone since in my opinion there are already too many sources available in which negative and discriminating characteristics are attributed to other peoples, be it in earnest or “only” in jest. Despite all Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow by Jennifer Eremeeva has been an interesting and amusing read, a well-written one, too.