August 1991. In a sweltering New York City apartment, a group of Russian émigrés gathers round the deathbed of an artist named Alik, a charismatic character beloved by them all, especially the women who take turns nursing him as he fades from this world. Their reminiscences of the dying man and of their lives in Russia are punctuated by debates and squabbles: Whom did Alik love most? Should he be baptized before he dies, as his alcoholic wife, Nina, desperately wishes, or be reconciled to the faith of his birth by a rabbi who happens to be on hand? And what will be the meaning for them of the Yeltsin putsch, which is happening across the world in their long-lost Moscow but also right before their eyes on CNN?
This marvelous group of individuals inhabits the first novel by Ludmila Ulitskaya to be published in English, a book that was shortlisted for the Russian Booker Prize and has been praised wherever translated editions have appeared. Simultaneously funny and sad, lyrical in its Russian sorrow and devastatingly keen in its observation of character, The Funeral Party introduces to our shores a wonderful writer who captures, wryly and tenderly, our complex thoughts and emotions confronting life and death, love and loss, homeland and exile.
About the Author
Ludmila Ulitskaya is one of Russia's most popular and renowned literary figures. A former scientist and the director of Moscow's Hebrew Repertory Theater, she is the author of thirteen works of fiction, three tales for children, and six plays that have been staged by a number of theaters in Russia and Germany. She has won Russia's Booker Prize and has been nominated for the International Man Booker Prize. A strong advocate for freedom of expression, she recently published a volume of her correspondence with the imprisoned Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Cathy Porter has published biographies of the Russianwomen revolutionaries Alexandra Kollontai and Larissa Reisner, as well as books about women terrorists of the 1860s, Russia's 1905 revolution, and the Battle of Moscow. She has translated more than thirty books and works for the stage, including plays by Gorky and the Czech Karel Capek. She lives in Oxford.
"Ludmila Ulitskaya arrives here not just as a shrewd novelist, but as a wise and evocative artist. . . . [THE FUNERAL PARTY is] quickly paced, quirkily observed and full of delicate surprises."
—Carlin Romano in the Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/4/01