Svetlana Satchkova


novel People and Birds by Svetlana Satchkova
printed by Eksmo

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Svetlana's third novel was published by Eksmo in Russian in 2020.

Tanya is very sensitive, timid, and hasn't really worked anywhere. Sasha has a tiny business, an unhappy marriage, and a Japanese mistress, but his dreams are much bigger than that. When he meets an eight-year-old boy on the street late at night, and Tanya gets a dog, a truly bizzarre story begins.

Here’s what the author says about her novel:

"There’s a lot of myself in the main characters Tanya and Sasha. And of yourselves, too, I think. All of us will at some point face the fact that our dreams didn’t come true and never will, come to terms with our fears, with small and large betrayals by people who are close to us and who are not close to us, with cruelty and stupidity, with life’s everyday absurdity — with the general fact that the world isn’t arranged according to our wishes. We have to cope with this somehow, look for ways to exist in this reality governed by rules we did not invent. And, in the end, everything comes together one way or another... or not."

The writer Alexey Salnikov has this to say about "People and Birds":

"Holy cow, how great, weird, and funny everything turns out in the end!
It's just that this book begins and continues in such a way that you unwittingly begin to imagine how badly things will be ending. You're already envisioning a finale typical of the Russian novel, an anguished and hopeless one. You don't even rule out one of the characters' suicide. Because the further you're reading, the worse everything's getting for the main character named Tanya, for the hapless businessman Sasha, and for everyone else, essentially. But suddenly an unexpected salvation arrives, like in the movie "Lawn Dogs," I don't know, like in "The Children of Captain Grant."
A wonderful fairy tale that doesn't seem like a fairy tale even with the inclusion into the story of a fantastic ubiquitous character – everything's so convincing, vivid, painted meticulously. Descriptions of domestic life, relationships, dialogues – everything's working to construct this wonderful deception. This fairy tale is pretending to be the new realism so effectively that all that happens seems quite realistic almost to the last period. It can't be any other way, I suppose. Not only the characters have been worked out in great detail, but also whatever surrounds them; you get the impression Svetlana's retelling a movie she's seen, giving her attention to every particularity, but this in no way bothers the reader, even though it seems that it should. What could I compare it to? Well, Raskolnikov loitered around Saint Petersburg, and here everybody's in some way a Raskolnikov (not a killer, but a lost soul), and these are the absolutely necessary details of the insane city and the slight madness of the characters themselves. Mind you, the characters are perfectly normal people who appear strange to each other.
Twice, Svetlana Satchkova gives the reader a kick in the guts (the first time with the dog's memories, the second at the very end – that's when you start tearing up), but, for the most part, she delivers witty remarks, some of which have been put into humorous footnotes. There are many unexpectedly funny places, and quite often you have to chuckle, but the phrase, "Tanya always screamed in bed. Just like in porn movies, with the only difference that she did it not out of passion, but because of nerves," caught me so unexpectedly that I had to snort tea into my monitor.
The characters bicker among themselves so recognizably, but this is something a lot of writers are good at. But talking about what all of them do for a living, about work – here, most authors stumble. Svetlana is different. Reading the scenes with the Rospotrebnadzor employees and with the fire inspectors, the only thing you can do is stand up and applaud her, honestly.
I don't know what else to say (if you don't know, don't say anything). There are books written by reason. You read a book like that, you understand why it's good, timely, necessary, and all that. And then there are books that you will never forget, even if you don't understand why. I really want the reader to venture into Svetlana's book with skepticism, with the thought, "Let's see what's so wonderful" (because how far would you get in life nowadays without skepticism?), and to experience the gradual dissolution of their distrust.
Can two men kidnap somebody else's child and still be the good guys? Easily, it turns out!"