3 April 14 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Tiffany Nichols on Rachel Shihor’s Stalin is Dead, translated by Ornan Rotem, and out from Sylph Editions.

If you’re into short, sweet, and messed up crazy-type flash fiction bits, this book would be right up your alley. The jacket copy alone is a great hook, informing would-be readers that:

The characters that inhabit this world – reckless she-goats, morose fish, somnambulistic theologians, poignant old ladies, dying dictators, and dead poets, to name just a few – have nothing in common save for the fact that they instruct us on the human condition. Available in Ornan Rotem’s translation (who also added typograms to go along with the text) these edifying stories, with all their sadness and humour, are a writer’s tour de force and a reader’s delight.

She-goats, somnabulism, and sad-sack fish? Yes please!

Here’s the beginning of Tiffany’s review:

Stalin is Dead has been repeatedly described as kafkaesque, which strikes a chord in many individuals, causing them to run to the bookstore in the middle of the night to be consumed by surreal situations that no one really experiences in their day-to-day life. After reading Stalin is Dead, I was troubled by this descriptor. Yes, Stalin is Dead contains numerous surreal situations, but they are not surreal within the familiar systems, such as a governmental system, of Kafka’s works. Stalin is Dead is more along the lines of the surreal absurdities of Clarice Lispector. I only mention this because while there is overlap between those who love Lispector and those who love Kafka, these individuals will be equally bothered and distracted from the text of Stalin is Dead due to the preconditions invoked by the kafkaesque descriptor.

Coming to this conclusion, it was not so surprising to realize that the subtitle—“Stories and aphorisms on animals, poets, and other earthly creatures“—is a better means of setting the context in which Stalin is Dead was likely intended to be consumed. The stories and aphorisms can be organized by daily observations in life, smug views of payback, and shock flash fiction—not the familiar backdrops of Kafka.

For the rest of the review go here.


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