“A story by an Uzbek author in Russian on a Jewish theme.”
“Apples from Shlitzbutter’s Garden,” Dina Rubina
It’s too bad so little of Dina Rubina’s fiction has been translated into English. Rubina, who lives in Israel, is a popular and critically acclaimed writer in Russia, and I’ve noticed that a significant number of visitors to my blog want information about Rubina’s translated works.
Two pieces of Rubina’s fiction are readily available in English. Вот идёт Мессия! (Here Comes the Messiah), a postmodern novel about émigré life in Israel, is easy to find and has some wonderful passages with good humor and observations, though I don’t particularly enjoy reading books with such sliced up narratives.
I liked Rubina’s short story “Яболки из сада Шлицбутера” (“Apples from Shlitzbutter’s Garden”) much more, thanks to a straightforward, friendly narrative voice. The story is included in the collection With Signs & Wonders: An International Anthology of Jewish Fabulist Fiction.
Rubina’s autobiographical short story is a first-person narrative of a woman’s visit to an editor, carrying “a story by an Uzbek author in Russian on a Jewish theme” that the narrator has promised to hand-deliver from Tashkent to Moscow. Including an Uzbek writer who addresses Jewish themes in Russian texts is just one element of Rubina’s examination of nationality, identity, and language.
I particularly admired Rubina’s skill at combining humor with tragedy, and her judicious use of mysticism chops nicely through the everyday Soviet reality on the surface of “Apples.” I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil anything… a short story is, after all, a story that isn’t very long!
My only regret about reading “Apples from Shlitzbutter’s Garden” is that I could almost smell the apples. Raw apples are literally a forbidden fruit for me because of allergies.
Edit: Rubina's novella На Верхней Масловке (On Upper Maslovka) is available as an ebook translated by Marian Schwartz.
Books on Amazon:Dina Rubina's Here Comes the Messiah!