They might dream of punishing the world and wives that make their lives so banal, but they never act on their desires.
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories
Unfortunately, for the rest of us, this means that the work is as dreadful and plodding as the realities the protagonists spend their time longing to escape. In the absence of real moral conflict these men are all unwavering in their psycho-intellectual supremacy, therefore interpersonal infractions are assuredly moot and meaningless , and unable to escape their lot in any true way, the grand malaise building up beneath the surface just results in a lot of trips to pubs and subsequent cover-ups. Each story becomes fueled by a seemingly endless supply of alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee.
Substances become substitutes for emotions: these men can never adequately express themselves, but at least they can still get tipsy. After the war, Askildsen spent time in the British zone of occupation in Germany. His earliest short stories appeared less than a decade after the end of World War II. The world created in this prose is, ultimately, a distillation of bourgeois, male boredom, and though its denizens hate their fate, they do relatively little to extricate themselves from it.
Ivan Alexseevich Bunin began by writing poetry, but soon turned to prose, the short story being his preferred genre. Sceptical about the various brands of literary modernism at the beginning of the century, he refused to join any of the several democratic and revolutionary groups of writers, and greeted the Bolshevik Revolution with distain.
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He emigrated to France, never to return to his homeland, which he missed with a nostalgia reflected in stories like Grammatika Iyubvi, Dalekoe , and Temnye allei which are included in this volume as is his best-known story Gospodin iz San-Frantsisko. His unswerving anti—Soviet stance was posthumously forgiven, and he is now recognised in his homeland, too, as one of the great masters of Russian language.
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