Sunday, February 12, 2012

Faith & Humor: Notes From Muscovy

(Russian Life) - A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.

Faith & Humor caused a sensation when it was published in Russia. As Kucherskaya writes in her introduction, “At one convent, the book was burned at the stake. Meanwhile, at a Seminary in another small town, it was added to the curriculum that helps future priests understand problems within the Church.”

Author Maya Kucherskaya artfully mixes fact and fiction, myth and history to offer a compelling, loving picture of a world of faith that is often impenetrable to outsiders. Yet Faith & Humor is not simply a book about the Orthodox Church, or about Russia rediscovering its faith after 70 years of state-sponsored atheism. Certainly there are elements of that here, and certainly Faith & Humor is an enlightening window into the “mysterious Russian soul.” But at its core, Kucherskaya’s book is a light, funny, insightful work of fiction about people who ardently believe something and who carry this belief out into the real world.

Maya Kucherskaya is a literary critic, novelist, biographer and teacher. A graduate of Moscow State University, she received a PhD from UCLA and is the author of more than 100 articles on literature and culture. She has served several times as a judge on Russia’s most prestigious literary award, the Booker, and her first novel (recently rewritten and published as The Rain God) received the Student Booker prize. Faith & Humor won the 2006 Bunin Prize.

Translator Alexei Bayer lives in New York, where he writes in English and in Russian, his native tongue, and translates into both languages. His translations have appeared in Chtenia and Words Without Borders, as well as in such collections as The Wall in My Head, a book dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Life Stories, a bilingual literary anthology to benefit hospice care in Russia. His writing has appeared in Chtenia, New England Review and KR Online.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an Orthodox "must read". "Humor" and "Orthodoxy" are not often paired up much less accepted. Thanks!