A couple of days ago, Alex Fleming, Anne Marie Jackson, and I entered a few final corrections into the proofs of our translation of Maxim Osipov’s Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Other Stories, which NYRB Classics will bring out in early April. This is Maxim’s book-length debut in English, but a number of the stories in the volume have already appeared in journals, and another will come out in Granta next month. An excerpt from the title story, translated by Alex, was published in Image in 2016, “Moscow-Petrozavodsk,” translated by Anne Marie, came out in The White Review in 2012, and Asymptote posted Alex’s translation of “The Mill” last year — along with a recording of Maxim reading the opening passage in Russian.
Maxim was born in 1963 and currently lives in Tarusa, a small town 90 miles outside Moscow, where he practices medicine and oversees a charitable foundation he established in 2007 to ensure the survival of the local hospital. As one might expect, in his writing, Maxim does draw on his experiences as a doctor, but his range is far greater. In our description of the book, we say that his “fiction presents a nuanced, collage-like portrait of life in provincial Russia — its tragedies, infinite frustrations, and moments of humble beauty and inspiration.” Svetlana Alexievich puts it more eloquently in her preface (which Alex has translated with equal eloquence):
When you delve into Osipov’s texts you see that they are deceptively simple, just like Shalamov’s: behind this childish ordinariness there lies a hidden chasm. The whole time they leave you thinking how difficult it is to love humanity — wonderful, repulsive, and terrifying as it is — but in order to stay human, that’s exactly what you must do: you must love man. Your soul is restless — it is thinking. To inspire such thoughts — that’s something that only true literature can do.
We hope Maxim’s collection inspires such thoughts in all its readers!