By Nataliya Meshchaninova
Translated by Fiona Bell
Longlisted for the NOS(E) Award
A Russian cult hit by rising filmmaker and author Nataliya Meshchaninova, Stories of a Life is a fierce and tender memoir-novel of one young woman’s experiences growing up around, and despite, men in the post-Soviet malaise of the late ‘90s.
Publication Date: February 1, 2022
Originally written as a series of viral Facebook posts, then released as a cult hit in St. Petersburg, Meshchaninova’s serialized memoir-novel tackles gender politics and abuse with honest, cutting language. Stories of A Life depicts the life of Natasha, a young woman who suffers abuse first at the hands of her stepfather Sasha and then by young men in the village nearby. This powerful, postmodern novel witnesses the Dickensian struggles of provincial life and reckons with the complicity of fellow women. Starkly down-to-earth yet funny and informal, Stories of A Life demands that we bear witness to the bleakness of a young womanhood in post-Soviet Russia. Meshchaninova is held in high regard as part of a new wave of women filmmakers in Russia, and with this collection cements her position as a woman willing to stare down the viewer and demand complicity.
Nataliya Meshchaninova is a cinematographer in Russia who made her directorial debut in 2014. In 2017, she broke onto the literary scene with the viral hit Stories of A Life, which became a pillar of the #metoo movement in Russia.
Fiona Bell is a literary translator and scholar of Russian literature who is committed to sharing the voices of contemporary female and nonbinary Russian writers with anglophone audiences. Bell’s essays have appeared in Full Stop, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She is from St. Petersburg, Florida, but currently lives in New Haven, Connecticut while earning a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literature at Yale University.
"The language in the novel’s most horrific scenes is deeply conversational, calling attention to the way sexual violence is casually tolerated by Russian society…Stories of a Life probes the more intimate betrayals of family and friendship. For Meshchaninova, turning a blind eye to everyday brutality is an act of violence in itself.” ––Sarah McEachern, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Russian film director Meshchaninova debuts with an arresting and frank autobiographical story. . . Meshchaninova sustains the effect of a woman still wrestling with the hatred she carries. This blunt coming-of-age story packs a heavy punch." ––Publisher's Weekly
“Nataliya Meshchaninova's Stories of a Life is one of the most provocative and exciting books I read this year–candid, fast-paced, and alluring. I love the way it moves through time and reality unapologetically. Meshchaninova's voice is bold and arrestingly sassy.” ––Vi Khi Nao
“Tearing herself free with screams, taunts, and something very much like poetry, Meshchaninova has given us an obscenely private text as frightening as the novels of Stephen King and as sharply formed as the tragedies of Racine... it’s not every year that a voice so pure and powerful emerges in Russian literature.” ––Galina Yuzefovich, Meduza