cover image Pushkin Hills

Pushkin Hills

Sergei Dovlatov, trans. from the Russian by Katherine Dovlatov. Counterpoint, $24 (160p) ISBN 978-1-61902-245-4

In Dovlatov’s posthumously translated short novel, Boris Alikhanov, a frustrated writer, recently divorced and low on money, takes up a menial tour-guide position at the Pushkin Hills Preserve. Feeling he’s entitled to a better life because of his self-ascribed literary brilliance, and the nagging thought that he picked up the pen for a reason, he spends much of his time mentally lampooning the people he meets and their undying devotion to Pushkin. Narrated in the first person, Alikhanov’s hilarious observations of the community and people around him (“He was too lazy to put on a hat. He simply laid it on top of his head”), his alcoholic misadventures, and especially his ridicule of the Pushkin Hills Preserve tourists propel this comic but trenchant story. Along the way, he recounts, in his deadpan voice, numerous anecdotes, ruminates on the failings of his writer contemporaries, and falls in love. The novel, however, is not without heart, and the moving final act prevents the book from becoming one-note. A most satisfying read that sustains its humor and emotional resonance. (Mar.)