Sergei Kaledin
    Sergei Kaledin is one of the most exciting new Soviet writers whose work has emerged since glasnost. His stories, with their unprecedented frankness, demotic speech and wry, rough-edged humour, have created a furore in Russia. 

      Writing with the conviction that comes from personal experience, Kaledin describes the lives of the Soviet underclasses - alcoholics, petty criminals, drug-addicts, drop-outs, declasse intellectuals and conscript soldiers - those whose chances of improving their lot depend on successfully navigating the tricky waters of officialdom and the black economy. 

      "The Humble Cemetery", told with humour and great humanity, is the tragic story of Lesnka the gravedigger who  must  pick  a  narrow  path  through a  minefield  of  backhanders,  vodka and violence - one step to the right and drink  will  claim him,  one to  the left and  he'll  be  caught  up in  his boss's intrigues.   In   "Gleb   Bogdyshev  Goes Moonlighting", with its riotous description of a gang of incompetent Muscovites rebuilding a cowshed for a hard-up state farm in Kazakhstan, Kaledin both enjoys his characters and sharply satirizes the pastoral idylls of the Stalinist era. 

      These two detailed and unvarnished pictures of life at the fringes of Soviet society reveal just what it is that perestroika must reconstruct, and together they carry the emotional charge of an old, repressive taboo that has at last been broken. 

      SERGEI KALEDIN was born in Moscow in 1949. He spent his years of compulsory military service in  one of the infamous construction battalions - to all intents and purposes a forced labour corps - building roads and felling trees in Siberia, and subsequently worked as a designer, a night watchman and a gravedigger. He began writing while studying at the Gorky Literary Institute, from which he graduated in 1979. For ten years his stories were regularly praised by Moscow's main literary journals and as consistently rejected. However, in 1987, as a result of glasnost, The Corridor,  a  collection  of  five  stories, was published  in  Moscow.  Only later  - and 
 not without a struggle - did two stories, "The Humble Cemetery" (now a successful stage play and film) and the more recent "The Construction Battalion", appear in the prestigious journal Novyi Mir. Almost over night 
 Kaledin became one of the best-known younger writers in the Soviet Union, and his stories are now being translated into all the major European languages. 

     CATRIONA KELLY, the translator, is a Research Fellow in Russian Literature at Christ Church, Oxford University. She is the author of Perushka, the Russian Carnival Puppet Theatre and the translator of Leonid Borodin's novel, The Third Truth. 

           Sergei Kaledin 
   Translated from the Russian by Catriona Kelly 
                            Translator's Preface 

      Sergei  Kaledin  was  forty  in  August  1989. He  began writing  in 1976,  but for more than  ten years  was unable  to publish  any of  his stories.  Finally,  in  1987, a  volume of  five stories,  The Corridor,  was issued 
 by  the  Moscow  publishing  house  Soviet  Writer  after a  long struggle  on the part of the book's editor, Anatolii  Strelyanii. When  two stories,  "The   Humble   Cemetery"   and   "The   Construction   Battalion",*   appeared in the prestigious journal  Novyi mir  (the.latter after  a censorship  delay  of  eight  months),  Kaledin  was   discovered  by   a  wider Soviet  public, and  he is  now one  of the  best-known Soviet  writers of 
 the   younger   generation.   "The  Humble   Cemetery"  has   been  staged by  the   well-known  Contemporary   Theatre  in   Moscow,  and   a  major film of this adaptation has just been released. 

       To  say  that  Kaledin's  work  is  controversial  is  to  understate the  case  by  a  considerable  margin.  His stories  deal with  subjects which  are  taboo  in  the  context  of  Soviet official  culture, and  which are 
 shocking   to   ordinary   Soviet   readers  as   well.  In   "The  Humble  Cemetery"  Kaledin   reveals  that   hypocrisy  and   double-dealing,  not  to speak  of shortages,  await ordinary  Russian people  in death  as well 
 as  life.  He  shows  how  the  ostentatious  public  cult  of  the  dead,  reflected  not  only  in  the  marble-topped  and  manicured  memorials of  the famous, but in the  frequent visits  made by  relatives to  the graves  of  their  families  to  decorate  them with  flowers or  simply sit  on a  bench  nearby,   has  a   macabre  and   unseemly  underside.   The  other  story   in  this   book,  "Gleb   Bogdyshev  Goes   Moonlighting",  though  in  many  ways  more  conventional,  is  nonetheless   an  unprecedentedly  frank  account  of  the  Soviet  "black  economy"  and  the  underworld of  educated drop-outs. 

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