Recommended Reading: Bride and Groom

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Bride and Groom

By Alisa Ganieva, Carol Apollonio (Translator)

From one of the most exciting voices in modern Russian literature, Alisa Ganieva, comes Bride and Groom, the tumultuous love story of two young city-dwellers who meet when they return home to their families in rural Dagestan. 

When traditional family expectations and increasing religious and cultural tension threaten to shatter their bond, Marat and Patya struggle to overcome obstacles determined to keep them apart, while fate seems destined to keep them together—until the very end.

About The Author: Alisa Ganieva 

Alisa Ganieva, born in 1985, grew up in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, and currently lives in Moscow. Her literary debut, the novella Salaam, Dalgat!, published under a male pseudonym, provoked contradictory reactions in Russia: astonishment, especially among young Russians, at this unknown part of their country; and anger among radical Islamists at this negative portrayal of their homeland by one of their own. 

Read an Excerpt

The Shakhovs lived in a whitewashed six-story apartment building on the central city square, nestled behind a disorderly clutter of shacks and garages. Under a pitted acacia tree, whose branches occasionally dropped little pods rattling with seeds onto the ground, children in bright-colored T-shirts were playing Nine Stones. They had chalked a square on the asphalt, had divided it into parts — as for Tic-Tac-Toe — and were raucously erecting a little tower out of pebbles in the centre square. As he walked past the cluster of little players squatting on their haunches, Marat tried to recall the rules, but he could only remember shreds: Rusik-the-Nail is standing by the rubble of a toppled tower aiming a ball at Marat, and Marat is hastily trying to set out the stones in each sector before his opponent can “tag” him.

Marat and his mother proceeded up a set of neat, gently rising steps through the entryway. Some of the doors had old-fashioned labels nailed to them: Prof. Omarov G, Engineer Isaev M A… Marat’s mother, who had put on a long, openwork shawl for the somber occasion — they were calling on the Shakhovs, as they had agreed, to convey their condolences upon the death of their uncle — followed him up the stairs, clutching onto the railings and voicing a never-ending litany of instructions:

“Remember, the girl’s name is Sabrina, don’t get it mixed up.”

The door opened and Shakhov’s wife, a withered woman with short hair, appeared. She assessed Marat quickly with her sharp eyes and nodded a greeting, then kissed his mother, who was whispering words of sympathy, and indicated a couple pairs of slippers for them to put on. The walls of the small entryway were lined with wooden shelves, laden with medical reference books; above them hung some black-and-white photographs. From one of them a large bearded man wearing a hat and a natty suit with a boutonniere frowned suspiciously out at Marat. This was Shakhov’s late father, a musical theater director, folk song collector, Don Juan, and great carnivore. 

He had gone on numerous expeditions in quest of unknown melodies, traveling far and wide with phonograph cylinders, audio recording devices, sheaves of notebooks, and bundles of dried mountain sausage. Every day, rumour had it, Shakhov Senior would eat an entire ram’s head, and after a successful premiere he would also down a hefty serving of boiled tripe, which they would prepare for him in a special kitchenette installed in the theatre for that purpose. Shakhov Junior vehemently denied these tall tales and claimed that throughout his life his father had suffered from gastritis and that there was no way he could have digested that many rams’ heads, even if he had wanted to.

“And plus, how could we have gotten hold of so many sheep? We didn’t have that kind of money anyway!”

It was hard to say whether he was telling the truth. Shakhov had worked at one time in the military industry and had retired with medals for some top-secret heroism; all he could do was talk about the former privileges he’d had and lost. The moment he sat down with Marat at the sparsely set table, he started in complaining about the workers at the torpedo factory who had dismantled and sold everything down to the last bolt.

“Asses! Embezzlers!” he wailed, rolling his eyes. “Traitors to the motherland!”

“You’re just asking for trouble, talking like that!” His dried-up wife shrugged wearily as she trudged back and forth from threshold to table. Marat’s mother would go along with anything. She added fuel to the fire:

“You’re so right, they’re just plain criminals! That’s what I tell Aselder all the time. He really wanted to come to see you, but there’s some kind of bedlam going on in the Institute over that damned Khalilbek.”

“Khalilbek? So you think he’s guilty too?”

“Absolutely, completely guilty of everything. You don’t think so?” Marat’s mother was getting worked up.

“What about you?” Shakhov addressed Marat.

“No, I don’t. The case is too complicated, and the prosecution has its facts wrong. It’s mostly rumors, malicious gossip.”

“You’re so right, let me shake your hand!” Shakhov squeezed Marat’s palm tightly. “Don’t let those women convict the man prematurely!”

“Where’s Sabrinochka?” Marat’s mother changed the subject.

“She’s here, Khadizha,” 

Shakhov’s wife responded from the kitchen. “She’s in her room studying. Probably didn’t hear you come in. Sabrina! Sabrina!”

“Enough! Stop calling her,” muttered Shakhov. “She’s not a princess, she ought to understand that we have guests.”

The living room also had an array of dark photographs on the walls. Again the theatre director, this time in jodhpurs and riding boots, with a silver belt around his ample waist. He stood proudly against a background of seven or eight smiling, tambourine-bearing chorus girls in bright-colored, floor-length scarves.

Next to that one hung a portrait of Shakhov’s deceased uncle, captured in his younger years astride a muscular black mare. He was a passionate equestrian, an expert on Akhal-Tekes — tall, hardy, long-legged horses with no manes. At the time of the photo, his career had just started to take off, but then everything came crashing down because of one careless phrase.

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Article originally Published in the October/November 2019 Issue “Read Global”

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