The 25 smoothly translated stories in this collection have the emotional depth of Chekhov and the inspired acuteness of Raymond Carver or John Cheever, making them truly ahead of their time: Bunin, the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in , deserves renewed attention. A few of the book's shorter stories—only a few pages each—intensely portray moments of anger, love and pain to demonstrate larger truths about human behavior. In the longer stories, small pains accumulate until they explode into tragic ironies. In "Raven," a young man develops an affection for a fetching nanny his father has hired, much to the father's dismay; the older man later marries the nanny. As a storyteller in "Ida" spins a tale of lost opportunity for romance, it becomes clear that the failure was his own. Other stories strip away characters' defenses with elegance and precision: the title story, for instance, describes a lieutenant's short-lived affair with a woman he meets on a cruise.
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She closed her eyes, pressed the back of her hand against her cheek, and laughed. Her laughter was simple and pleasant, as was everything about this small, attractive woman.
Three hours ago I didn't even know you existed. I don't even know where you got on this boat. Well, I guess it doesn't matter Is my head spinning, or are we turning? The lieutenant brought her hand to his lips: small and tan, it smelled of the sun. She lay the back of her hand against her warm cheek again. As you wish They almost fell over each other when the steamer bumped with a soft thud against the dimly lit pier. A moment later they emerged from a drowsy little office on the dock, crossed a patch of ankle-deep sand, and climbed into a dusty cab without exchanging words.
Soft with dust and lit by only a few crooked lamps, the road seemed endless as they traveled its gradual slope up the mountainside. But at last they reached the top and began to rattle down a paved carriageway past little offices, the local watchtower, a public square. It was warm, and the air was heavy with all the smells of a provincial town on a summer night.
The driver stopped before the lighted entrance to an inn, the open doors of which displayed a worn, steep wooden staircase. An old, unshaven porter with big, wide feet, a pink shirt, and a frock coat sullenly took their bags and lugged them up the steps.
They entered a large room that was terribly stuffy and still sweltering from the day's sun; white curtains were closed over the windows and two unused candles stood on the mantelpiece.
As soon as the porter left and shut the door, the lieutenant rushed to her with such ardent desire, and they both gasped with such ecstasy as they kissed, that each would remember that moment for many years to come: they had never experienced anything similar in all their separate lives.
They had slept very little, but after washing and dressing for five minutes, she looked as fresh as a seventeen-year-old girl when she came out from behind the screen near the bed.
Was she awkward or ashamed? Not very, no. Instead she was as happy and as open as she'd been the day before, and her mind was clear. If we go together, everything will be ruined. It would be very unpleasant for me. I give you my honest word that I'm nothing like the person you might imagine me to be. I must have lost my mind. Or we've both suffered some kind of sunstroke. They arrived just before the pink steamer Samolyot left the dock, and he kissed her openly on deck, despite the crowd, then jumped back onto the gangplank as it was being pulled away.
He returned to the inn feeling equally happy and carefree. But something had changed. The room seemed completely different from the room where she had been. It was still full of her, and yet, it was completely empty.
How strange! Overwhelmed by a sudden wave of tenderness and longing, the lieutenant hurriedly lit a cigarette and began to pace the room. And then she's gone. The screen had been moved aside; he put it back before the unmade bed, knowing that he couldn't bare to look at those sheets and pillows now.
He shut the windows in order to escape the sound of carriage wheels creaking in the street and voices rising from the market, then he closed the filmy white curtains and sat down on the couch.
For where could they possibly meet again? No, it couldn't be! It was too cruel, impossible, insane. What is it about her?
What exactly happened yesterday? It must be some kind of sunstroke! And now I'm stuck in this backwater without her. How the hell will I get through the day?
Traces of the exquisite pleasure that she'd given him with all her feminine charm remained extraordinarily acute within him, but those sensations were now eclipsed by a strange new feeling that he couldn't comprehend. And what now?
Memories I can't dispel Pain I can't relieve An interminable day stuck in this godforsaken town. And the Volga shining in the sun while it carries her away on a pink steamer! He put his hat on decisively, picked up his riding crop, and quickly passed through the empty corridor, his spurs chinking. A young driver waited near the hotel entrance, wearing a trim, sleeveless coat and placidly smoking a cigarette.
The lieutenant looked at him uncomprehendingly. I must be the only person in this town who feels so miserable," he thought, heading toward the market. The market was closing down, and many of the merchants had already driven off. But for some reason he walked among the fresh droppings left by the horses, walked among the wagons and carts loaded with cucumbers, the displays of new pots and bowls.
Then he wandered into a small, neglected garden on the mountain's edge and slowly walked around in circles, the river's measureless expanse shining like bright steel beneath him The shoulder straps and buttons of his uniform grew too hot to touch. The inside of his cap turned wet with sweat. His face began to burn When he returned to the inn he felt a certain pleasure as he entered the spacious, cool, and empty dining room on the lower floor. He felt pleasure as he removed his hat and sat down at a small table by an open window that let a little air into the room despite the heat.
He ordered botvinya with ice Everything was good. There was enormous happiness in everything. Even the heat; even the smells of the marketplace and this unfamiliar, little town; even this old, provincial inn contained great joy: and in its midst his heart was being torn to shreds He ate half-sour pickles with dill and downed four shots of vodka, thinking he'd die willingly tomorrow if some miracle would let him bring her back, let him spend one more day with her just so he could tell her everything.
What for? Why try to convince her? Why show her anything? He didn't know, but this was more essential than his life. He pushed his bowl of soup away, ordered black coffee, and began to smoke, wondering desperately what he could do to save himself from this sudden, completely unexpected love.
But even as he sought some means of escape, he felt all too clearly that escaping was impossible. He'd asked her several times at dinner and at the hotel, but she had only laughed. Why do you need to know my name, or who I am? A shop window on the corner near the post office was filled with photographs.
He looked for a long time at the portrait of some military type with bulging eyes, a low forehead, and a stunning pair of lavish sideburns.
He wore thick epaulets, and his exceedingly broad chest was completely covered with medals And then, overwhelmed with envy for all these unknown people who were free of suffering, he began to study the street, looking desperately for something.
Where to? What now? The street was completely empty and all the buildings looked identical: white, two-story merchant-class homes with big gardens and not a soul inside. A thick white dust lay on the paving stones; and all of it was blinding, all of it was flooded with hot, joyful, flaming sunlight which now seemed useless beyond words. The street rose in the distance, then dipped down, as if stooping under the cloudless sky.
And that was more than he could bare: stumbling and tripping on his spurs, squinting in the light, struggling to see the ground beneath his feet, the lieutenant staggered back the way he'd come. When he reached the inn, he was as exhausted as a man who'd marched for miles in Turkestan or the Sahara.
It was an ordinary officer's face, but it now looked haggard and deranged, and there was something both youthful and profoundly sad about his thin white shirt and its small starched collar. He lay down on his back on the bed and propped his dusty boots up on the footboard. It was evening when he awoke: a red and yellow sun hung behind the curtains, the breeze had died away, the room felt as hot and dry as an oven.
Sunstroke: Selected Stories
A valuable collection of 25 stories written by the Russian Nobel laureate — , during the years —45, when he lived as an exile in France following the Revolution. Bunin is, unaccountably, the least translated of the great Russian writers and his best work ranks with that of Turgenev and Chekhov. This splendid volume takes an important step toward righting a long-standing wrong. A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships. A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.
Sunstroke: Selected Stories of Ivan Bunin Summary
The story is set in a prisoner-of-war camp in November , in the Crimea , after the evacuation of the White Army , with several thousand of White officers left behind on the peninsula. The officers are unaware of their impending doom, waiting for their fate to be decided by the Red Army officials. His musing comes to an end when all the White officers board an old barge, which the Reds take down in the Black Sea , and all officers perish. The world premiere took place on October 3, in Belgrade , Republic of Serbia. The premiere of the film in the Russian Federation took place on October 4, ; the film was released in wide distribution on October 9, The television premiere took place on November 4, on the Russia-1 television channel. In , the Russia-1 channel premiered the 5-episode version of the film Sunstroke.
Sunstroke: Selected Stories of Ivan Bunin
Photograph via Flickr by EP Holcomb. Where ever did you come from? In Samara? Is my head spinning or are we turning somewhere? There was blackness ahead, and there were lights. From the blackness, a balmy and powerful wind whipped their faces, and the lights raced off somewhere to the side.
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