Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Review: Zuleikha


Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This 21st century Russian novel, by a woman and about a woman, rose to the top of the novels I was considering for Reading Envy Russia - it is set in the 1930s as the Red Army is moving through rural regions of the country, removing people from land they owned and had worked while moving toward collectivism for all farming.

I had the mistaken impression that Communism was pro-peasant class but learned that landowning people, referred to as kulak, were treated as enemies. Many were killed outright, as Zuleikha's husband is, and many were sent to work camps in Siberia, as Zuleikha is. Neither of these are really spoilers although they take some time to happen. This period is referred to as the kulakization.
Other parts of interest - Zuleikha and her husband are Muslim, something I haven't seen much of in Russian literature so far. She also is in service to her mother in law, a terrible woman. The underlying premise seems to be that her life improves in Siberia. There are other memorable characters like a doctor, the commandant, a female soldier, even an artist. But the real star is Zuleikha.

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