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Zsuzsa Selyem

It’s Raining in Moscow


It’s Raining in Moscow is a novel that goes both beyond and stays this side of history — the history of a family, of the post-1945 deportations, of a multiethnic region in Eastern Europe, Transylvania, in the 20th century, of the interactions of animals, plants and humans, where for once the text inhabits the non-human perspectives. A novel that repeatedly asks the question, what do we need to face our own lies and the lies of others; what do we accept as truth if we are dispossessed, left to our own means and entirely alone in the wasteland, or in the torture chamber?

Eleven stories from the short 20th century — the defining events in the life of a man, István Beczássy, the author’s grandfather, from sexual initiation to interrogation and torture at the hands of the Securitate, the secret police of communist Romania, narrated mostly from animal perspectives. The familiar historical traumas are shown in a strikingly defamiliarizing light: deportation into forced domicile, when seen through the eyes of a dog, becomes at once more bearable and more gripping, for the dog doesn’t perceive the loss of property but senses all the more acutely the absence of his masters, the ghostly silence of the empty house. The interrogation and torture at the Securitate headquarters, when told by a bedbug that voices self-help psychological clichés and Coelho-like fatuities, at once hinders our natural empathizing with the victim of torture, and starkly exposes dominant behavior patterns in the world of the humans.

The author writes the following about the text’s central conceit and its genesis: “In conceiving the narrators’ perspective I drew on the specificities and peculiarities of their perception, based on ethological or dendrological research: in writing this work, especially revealing were studies on the fly’s compound eyes and apperception of movement, or contemporary composer and sound engineer David Dunn’s musical experiments with trees, which helped me imagine the ‘hearing’ of trees… Here the animals’ yarns do not serve the human yearning for allegory and a moral to be drawn, and although backed by scientific research, they are far from being realist. My goal has been the broadening of human perception: the empathetic imagination.”

Title Info

Zsuzsa Selyem

It’s Raining in Moscow (2020)

Translated by Erika Mihálycsa with Peter Sherwood

ISBN: 978-1-940625-39-3

USD $20.00

Artist Cover by Mária Chilf

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