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Author Topic: LBL Reviews REPUBLIC OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS by Valery Brussof  (Read 1841 times)
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« on: October 17, 2009, 07:26:31 PM »

(Note : I have been making the reviews of this series for quite some time and would want to see them published somewhere . This is an old one, picked up at random, tell me how you feel and I may post more tongue )

LBL Reviews REPUBLIC OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS by Valery Brussof

The collection „The republic of the southern cross and other stories“ by Valery Brussoff seems to be one of those books that get seemingly no discussion . The title story is said to be reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges, but on the contrary, while the story seems indeed like something Borges could write, there are others here dealing with the theme of perception of reality, madness and the reality of dreams which most echo the works of that fine south American gentleman . The collection, ironically, though it is fantastic in every story to a decree, has for it’s title a story much more „down to earth“ and utopian tale of the future . What is also very interesting is that the only true ghost story in this book is the weakest of the stories and carries but little imagination . But something like „Rhea Silvia“ , ah, that is a different story altogether !

One more thing to note before getting to the individual summaries and ratings for these stories is the absence of a certain feeling and atmosphere common to many Russian tales, a Russian identity and location, so to speak, even if the stories technically do happen in Russia at times . But the themes and locations covered are far more diverse : the arctic circle in the, what we may conjecture from the text, a distant future , sixth century Rome , Africa, and some others being completely non descript as to their location .

But now to the individual stories .

REPUBLIC OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS is a story which displays a utopian state on the north pole, with it’s capital slowly being ravaged by an epidemic of madness that brings nigh endless destruction and ends with the city being almost obliterated, and the half human people evacuated . The city is then renovated . A grim little piece, though the horror is simply a disease and the descriptions are more impassive and calm and reasonably put together, when compared with the masterpiece of such fantastically catastrophic literature, Alfred Kubin’s „The other side“ („Die andere seite“, 1901) , where the horror comes after a long buildup and it is connected to far more mysterious powers and the narrator suffers as do all the others . Still a very good piece, though strangely different from the more philosophically dream/nightmare orientated tales .

THE MARBLE BUST is a tale told by an old man sent to prison for burglary . He tells of his affair with a poor woman many years ago that he had forgotten, in the beginnings of his very ambitious life, which soon turned bitter and ended him a beggar and drunk . While doing an odd job, he sees a marble bust, the exact likeness of his love, which he had in the meantime completely and utterly erased from memory . He realizes his own baseness and tries to gather the remains of his memories of Nina, but succeeds barely in calling up a few fragments . Believing the bust, supposedly a fifteenth century work, that is in fact an absolute likeness, to be able to re-awaken all his lost memories, he wanders around the house in which the bust is situated for many months till one day he breaks in , and is caught . The story so far is not bad, though having only a faint fantastic under current (the bust made five hundred years ago a perfect likeness of a creature of the „current“ century) , but the last sentence, though not exactly fisting , brings the tale into conte cruel territory, when the man says : „What if Nina never existed, and it was merely my poor mind, weakened by alcohol, which invented the whole -story of this love whilst I was looking at the little marble head ?“

FOR HERSELF OR FOR ANOTHER! is a tale of a man who meets up, or so he thinks, with an old flame he cruelly rejected ,after she had debased herself before him, asking his love . This person is so like her that he begins pursuing her and trying to force her to confess she is Elizavieta . At first, she denies this, but then begins to play a game with the man’s mind by pretending (or does she?) that it is really her, but mixes up her facts and cruely leaves the title character to be tormented with the uncertainty . The story as such works very well as a little conte-cruel , but sadly, the end where the woman declares she may have possibly just „avenged another“ ,or may not, takes something of the spice and ambiguity out of her actions, even though she never confirms herself as either of the two women . Mostly nice .

IN THE MIRROR is a fantasy of a woman who is fascinated by mirrors, till she finds one of her reflections tempting her and after a long struggle lasting many days, weeks, or even months, is dragged into the mirror to exchange fates with her phantom, but in the darkness of nonentity she manages to dominate her in turn, who had taken over the woman’s earthly life , and change places again. Thereafter, however, after revealing her story to her relatives, she is sent to an asylum, from which she wants to go away, back to life . At the end, the similar feeling of anxiety and uncertainness, as Brussof already demonstrated in his last story, „In the tower“ overcome the heroine: is she, in fact the reflection and is the original not buried in the mirror ? And the reader is also prone to ask: is the woman not simply mad ?

PROTECTION is rather a sub par Ghost story of a woman, who still loves her dead husband and who shows himself to her . Now that would be fine and dandy, but another man masquerades as the dead man, to do something to her, for he loves her and is young, but the woman faints and the dead man himself confronts the impostor, shaking his hand at him . That’s it .

THE " BEMOL " SHOP OF STATIONERY is a slighter fantasy, about a Russian girl who makes friends and substitutes human companionship with the things and items in a stationery shop . Surprisingly, though it is a similar tale as the following, RHEA SILVIA, watered down one could say, about half way through I found out it actually worked . Much more of a „Russian“ short story then all the others, probably .

RHEA SILVIA is a fantasy that feels detached from the reality of story telling . It depicts Maria, a girl and then woman, who lives in a ruined Rome and finds glorious visions of it’s past in her fathers words, in the books she reads and in the ruined statues and bathe houses she finds . She grows up, ignoring her kin, till one day she discovers an underground palace preserved intact, the Golden House of Nero . Here, she begins to reside and investigate all the beauty of the statues and bas relief‘s, especially one of Rhea Silvia, about to be visited by the god Mars. After long fantasizing, a young man comes to her in the darkness, and she believes he is in fact Mars, though he is a Goth in hiding in Rome .He begins to reside with the half crazy girl and to be pulled in by her fantasies, till they embrace one another . But one day, he disappears and as Maria finds out she will give birth to a child, which she fashions shall be Romulus and Remus, that will build a new Rome, she learns of the man’s death and gives birth to a misfit which is probably born dead, though she still believes she had given birth to Romulus and Remus .Then one day, she drowns herself in the Tiber, ending like she had come to expect and almost hope, like the original Rhea Silvia . Very good .

ELULI, SON OF ELULI details two archeologists stranded in Africa, excavating a Phoenician tomb, and seemingly invoking a Phoenician to curse them . The first half of the story is more effective, with the old man’s dwelling on death, though the end, after the curse appears in the narrative, is not really bad .

IN THE TOWER is a short, good piece, detailing a man, writing of his dream that he was a captive in medieval times on the territories of this days Russia . There, as a hostage in the castle of one Hugo Von Rizen, he falls in love with his daughter Matilda, but when he is asked later to betray his land, he forgets her, and realizing he is in a dream, spends a long time defying Hugo and awaiting torture and death in the castle dungeons when he wakes . He then commences to try and live a normal life again, but a sudden fear comes upon him, that he may in fact be actually dreaming now and might later awake in Von Rizen‘s castle . Very nice .

Of all these, I would say RHEA SILVIA is the best, though both IN THE TOWER and  IN THE MIRROR and even THE " BEMOL " SHOP OF STATIONERY share a level almost as equal . ELULI, SON OF ELULI is only slightly bellow these others in quality , FOR HERSELF OR FOR ANOTHER! Again slightly lower on the scale because of the somewhat melodramatics ending letter , and then finally THE MARBLE BUST, which is not bad, but is not as fantastic as the others , though well written . The title story ranks as a good story as well, an exceedingly good story, but is difficult to compare with any of the top stories from this collection, because it is so fundamentally different from them in spirit and it‘s clear headed-ness . Finally, PROTECTION falls completely flat , though it had potential .

Excellent collection , that should be far more known .
« Last Edit: October 18, 2009, 04:57:39 AM by Lobolover » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2009, 09:33:32 PM »

mustn't have my stuff here, ed keeps it.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2011, 07:45:30 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2009, 04:25:29 AM »

I think you've done a fantastic job, considering English is your second language, but I'm sorry to say Woody is right - if you want to get these published anywhere then you've got to address the spelling and the strange puctuation you've got in places.

From what I've read of it, your review seems well considered, so it would be worth the effort to tidy up the text. I found the mistakes too distracting for me to read the whole thing. Sorry undecided
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2009, 04:58:27 AM »

Spell checked and updated .  dance
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