“Doorinda” (excerpt) by Daliya Truskinovskaya
English Publication History: Red Star Tales (Russian Life Books, 2015)
Original: Russian (Дверинда), 1990
Translated by Julia M. Sidorova, 2015
Synopsis: Ksenya is seeing hard times since her husband left her and their son to live alone in their apartment block. Returning to her home on evening, she realizes that she had forgotten her keys, and at that moment of good fortune, a man on the run offers his help, which he does with several strange devices, but it also benefits him—as soon as he’s through the door, he disappears. When Ksenya tries the door on a rainy day, she suddenly appears at work. At first, thoughts of food and medicine stir in her mind.
Pre-analysis: A few words from Wiki regarding supply and rationing in the USSR in the 1980s:
Perestroika was a political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s, widely associated with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost (meaning “openness”) policy reform. The literal meaning of perestroika is “restructuring”, referring to the restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system. Perestroika is sometimes argued to be a cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, and the end of the Cold War. (wiki)
In the 1980s shortages continued in basic consumer items, even in major population centers. Such goods occasionally were rationed in major cities well into the 1980s. Besides the built-in shortages caused by planning priorities, shoddy production of consumer goods limited actual supply …. By the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse at the end of 1991, nearly every kind of food was rationed. Non-rationed foods and non-food consumer goods had virtually disappeared from state owned stores. While the gap was partially filled by non-state stores which started to appear in the mid-1980s, the prices in non-state stores were often five to ten times higher than in state stores and were often out of reach for the general population. (wiki)
Analysis: Desperation settles upon Ksenya as she struggles with her life at home as she has to raise her son by herself. She considers their lack of food and medicine yet is hopeless against the inertia of perestroika to obtain anything useful. Her stroke of fortune comes from the fantastic run-in with a fugitive who enables her door to open to wherever she pleases. She allows her to immediately bypass to a number of everyday annoyances: (1) she can forego inconvenient public transportation, (2) she can pick and choose victual items from hoarded stockpiles, and (3) she can obtain medical supplies just when she needs it most.
In essence, the gift that Ksenya had been given was the gift of capitalism. Consider: (1) if she had a private car, she could avoid most the rain and arrive at work on time; (2) if she could go to a supermarket, she could purchase items for her two-member family within her budget; and (3) if she had a decent hospital, she could get the supplies and care she needed for her son.
Review: As she considers her life to have become magical, she interweaves herself into the fairy tales she tells her son, an aspect of the excerpt that adds a meta-fictional element to the longer novella-length story, which, according to various translated reviews, sees Ksenya travel to romantic fantasy lands. So, as a reader show doesn’t fancy anything related to “romantic fantasy”, perhaps its better that the story was abbreviated before it go into the magical lands. The full-version of the story could, however, offer a little more detail into the meta-fictional element of this excerpt that, at first glance, seems to follow the 1930s or 1940s pulp tradition of “inexplicable devices doing wondrous things without any reason”, if that’s a sub-genre or something.