cover image Balancing Acts: Contemporary Stories by Russian Women

Balancing Acts: Contemporary Stories by Russian Women

Acts Balancing. Indiana University Press, $17.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-253-20500-1

In what should have been a landmark collection, American readers are introduced to 19 Soviet female authors who range in age from 38 to 81. Goscilo, professor of Slavic studies at the University of Pittsburgh, argues that the cultural factors that inhibit change in the Soviet Union have also fractured the progress of feminism and of relations between the sexes, and in fact the overarching theme of this anthology is an unwillingness to take action despite deep discontent. In ``The Wall,'' for example, an elderly couple, both of whom hold important government jobs, barely speak to each other, instead reflecting silently on past romances. These stories are indistinct; their concerns are homogeneous and their styles suffer from what even Goscilo identifies as tendencies toward ``flaccid formulations . . . and an insipid descriptiveness.'' Accordingly, the anthology becomes monotonous. Whether or not readers agree with Goscilo that the extreme complacency of the characters represents an ennobling transcendence, they will recognize that the authors' attitudes toward passivity bespeak the suffusion of a Russian sensibility. (Apr.)