In 1994 Russian writer Victor Erofeyev proclaimed Leonid Dobychin "one of the main heroes of twentieth-century Russian literature." Obscure for many years, Dobychin is now celebrated as a modernist master. His short stories are hailed as a sort of Soviet version of Joyce's Dubliners-subtle and tightly constructed miniatures linked by recurring themes and full of ironic juxtaposition, context, allusion, and style.
For Dobychin early Soviet society was an absurdist wonderland. He was not anti-Soviet but trans-Soviet, practicing realism but looking at reality from jarring angles. A typical day for a Dobychin hero includes participation in character-building sports, witnessing a parade, attending a funeral, and memorial to fallen communists-and finally reflecting at the end of the day that he almost met a pretty young sick-nurse. Dobychin's stories reveal a Brave New World where idealism rubs shoulders with heartless ambition and political denunciation, and ubiquitous acronyms and revolutionary cliché maul the language. But he also describes the absurdities of a place where office girls pray for the arrest of disliked co-workers and prisoner work gangs are made to spell out beautiful but empty platitudes in beds of sand. This collection includes all of the stories published in Dobychin's lifetime, plus two stories that remained unpublished until the late 1980s.