Yury Trifonov took a turn toward the controversial, and a leap toward greatness, with the publication of the two novellas included in this collection. "The Exchange" and "The Long Goodbye" depict the complex dilemmas and compromises of Russian life after World War II. These works, along with the short stories "Games at Dusk" and "A Short Stay in the Torture Chamber," detail the moral and spiritual decline in Russia that resulted from the growing distance between the theoretical idealism of the Soviet state and the actual materialism and careerism that increasingly marked society.
The novella and two short stories that make up this volume were written at three different periods in Makanin's life, yet they are united by their narrative and stylistic invention, their range of human emotion, and the profound humanity of their prose. Though banished and suppressed in the Brezhnev era, Makanin is now recognized as one of Russia's leading writers.
In his celebrated short story "The Prisoner of the Caucasus," two Russian soldiers take a Chechen prisoner during the war, and as events unfold, Makanin reveals the casual brutality of the war but also the secret truths of the character's lives. In the novella The Loss, Pekalov, a drunkard and dreamer obsessed with the idea of building a tunnel under the Ural River, disappears in a ditch while working and is made a saint by the people of his village. "Klyucharyov and Alimushkin" tells the story of what happens when one man becomes remarkably lucky while the other loses all his luck.