The Women of Lazarus

The Women of Lazarus
The Women of Lazarus
Astrel (2011)
ISBN 978-5-271-36421-1
After the success of her debut novel The Surgeon (2005), which gained her the nomination for the National Bestseller Prize and enthusiastic critical acclaim, Marina Stepnova returns with a mesmerizing story of love, loss and human genius.

Marusia and Sergei Chaldonov are indeed blessed in their marriage. He—a respectable scientist with a bright academic career ahead, despite the revolutionary turmoil in Russia at dawn of the 20th century; she—a beautiful, kind, and intelligent wife. Their complete happiness is marred by one thing only: the couple is childless. After the first years of disappointment and doubt, Marusia makes a deal with God, the terms of which she never reveals to her husband. And in 1918, when Marusia is 49 years old, a child is bestowed on the couple. This child is Lazarus Lindt: 18-year-old self-educated maverick, true genius and a peer of the troubled century.

Lazar, too, loves Marusia, and with a passion that is different from filial love. The offspring of a poor Jewish family of which nothing is known besides their name, the prodigy Lazarus Lindt becomes Sergei Chaldonov’s brightest pupil, his follower, and in no time outdoes his champion. An easy winner in all fields of science, Lazar fails to accomplish what he wants most. Marusia will never know about the true nature of Lazarus’s feelings – not when he, already an acclaimed physicist and head of a promising line in nuclear physics, follows the Chaldonovs to Ansk during the evacuation and stays in the provincial town when Marusia decides against returning to Moscow after the war; not when the jouir and bon vivant refuses to introduce Marusia to any of his numerous lovers; not even when Lazarus takes his chances and articulates his feelings at Sergei Chaldonov’s anniversary. Marusia’s open-hearted and easy response – “I love you too” – leaves no hope for Lazarus.

Lindt gets love-struck for the second time in his life years after Marusia’s quiet and peaceful death. Galina—all peaches and cream, an exceptionally beautiful 18-year-old assistant at a Department of Chemistry in the Ansk Engineering Institute of Water Supply —plans her happy and simple family life with a postgraduate student, when her future knocks on the door of the Department in the guise of the Institute’s guest lecturer, living classic of the physical sciences and father of the Soviet atomic bomb, Lazarus Lindt. Galina responds to Lazarus’ passion with virulent hatred unto death, with the stubbornness of a simple and shallow nature. She will never love anyone else, not even her son, who commits suicide after a fatal accident befalls his wife, leaving their 5-year-old daughter Lida an orphan. The lovely tomboy Lida soon learns to endure pain, living through the spiteful indifference of her grandmother Galina, the physical strains of ballet school, and the despair of unrequited first love. Lida is yet to discover that sometimes you have to go to the farthest ends of the earth and even to die to find your love—and your home.

Marina Stepnova has depicted the country’s 20th century on a broad canvas, permeating it with rhyming fates, echoes of feelings, and the tiniest movements of the human soul. The author’s unprecedented literary command enables the reader to marvel and wonder at new meanings underlying the most basic notions of family, home, happiness, and love.

Praise for the novel:

«Stepnova shares a clearly misanthropic view of life, and at the same time a happy marriage with language, and this happiness and harmony are reminiscent of Olga Slavnikova, Tatjana Tolstaya, Mikhail Shishkin and Vladimir Lichutin», - Lev Danilkin for Afisha

«Two exclusive things make this text: immaculately sharp definitions and a clear answer to the question “what is right”. This is a saga about all of us.» - XXL-magazine