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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars zoo, 11 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: Zoo, or Letters Not About Love (Russian Literature (Dalkey Archive)) (Russian Literature Series) (Paperback)
I think its a really brilliant idea to try and construct a narrative out of letters sent between two lovers, but not lovers, because he loved her but she obviously didnt love him, or maybe in a way that should be reversed, because while he appears to pour his heart out he does it so forcefully that his professed honesty may not be all it appears to be.

The story, roughly, is about Alya and this guy who we know to be Viktor Shklovsky, but isnt specifically named. Its part real life, as in the story is based on Shklovsky's real life letters between himself and Elsa Troilet, and apparently some of the best letters were exact copies of the ones they'd written each other.

Alya, is made out to be indifferent the writer's advances, his flattery, his revelations, and very early on she instructs him not to write about love;

"Don't write me only about your love. Don't make wild scenes on the telephone. Don't rant and rave. You're managing to poison my days. I need freedom - I refuse to account for my actions to anyone."

While Alya may not be the most sympathetic of characters, she does appear to be the more genuine, despite the authors attempt at the opposite. It reminds me Albert Camus' The Outsider, in that Alya's honesty is very brutal, but from an objective point of view she has been put into a difficult position, hounded by letters, and can only stop these advances by being blunt.

Of course its not all one-sided, but this is my attempt at balancing out the biased storytelling, which kind of tries to paint the author as a downtrodden lover, only trying to do the right thing and reveal his undying love..

I love this book.. This edition in particular tries to take it back to its original formate, it has a good introduction, and at the end there are 30 pages of prefaces to later editions and letter's added later on. I think the translation is lovely, but havent read any other translation, nor have i read the original russian (i simply can't!).

As far as i'm concerned this is one of my best purchases this year, came across by accident in Waterstones, never heard of it before, and thought i'd try and find a cheaper version on here:) Well worth a try.
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