Wednesday, November 10, 2010

REVIEW: The Dacha Husband, by Ivan Shcheglov

The Dacha Husband, by Ivan Shcheglov. Published 2009 by Northwestern University Press. Literary Fiction. Translated from the Russian.

The Dacha Husband is a short satire of bourgeois married life in nineteenth century Russia, centering on a couple with a home in the country and a husband who works in the city. As the railway grew in Russia during this time, such arrangements were common. The characters in Shcheglov's little comedy are archetypes and stereotypes- the overworked, harried man and the silly, spoiled, social-climbing wife. Think of it as Madame Bovary from the husband's persepctive, but written as a comedy.

The book is broken up into several parts, including an introduction to the concept of the dacha husband, a sort of philosophical meditation on the subject and a melodrama about what happens when the couple takes a vacation to a spa and the wife encounters handsome hangers-on vying for her attention. Let's just say matrimonial bliss is not in the cards for these two. I will say that I found some of the comedy to be slightly misogynistic from time to time, determined as our narrator is to portray himself as a martyr and his wife as an ungrateful wretch. But it's supposed to be funny and for the most part it is.

Read as part of Russo-Biblio-Extravaganza
So who should read The Dacha Husband? I'd suggest it to people who like satires and black comedy. Readers with any kind of semi-serious interest in Russian literature would find it worthwhile. It depicts the rise of the middle class in a way that I haven't really seen before and its characters are all unlikeable in one way or another as the book depicts a hollowed-out marriage based on material goods and consumerism. If you wanted to find a serious message here it's probably possible but for the most part it's just a light little after-dinner mint of a novel.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.