A couple of decades ago, I’d have felt it absurd if someone had talked about Russian women’s works hitting the bestsellers henceforth since Russia could be the most backward in accepting women’s writing as serious literature. Indeed now, with many women writers in vogue and subverting Russian writing trends, I think that Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat could no more exclusively enjoy the crowning. It struck me that the concrete Russian custom of touchstone works coming from male writers are fading when I stumbled upon Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s The Black Coat— a strikingly dark scary story.
The story is from the collection There Once lived a Woman who tried to kill her Neighbour’s baby, each story hammers on uncanny emotions smacking with mysterious and spine-tingling experiences. Of 19 scary stories in the collection, I’m sharing with you my reading experience of the one that stirred me.
Ludmilla’s The Black Coat
Full of darkness, mystery, and horror, Ludmilla opens her story straight off with a girl (she’s known as ‘the girl’ throughout) suddenly waking up lost in woods wearing a bizarre black coat. The girl’s one- night short journey seems so nightmarish that one feels trapped— severely suffocating and choking. The girl moves, strides, runs but with the least idea of where to in pitch-darkness.
Revelation happens gradually but not until the girl is cast off, mentally too. She suddenly bumps into a strange woman wearing a black coat, just like her. Shockingly both their coat pockets have ten matchsticks each. Brief talk between the girl and woman, their matchsticks’ flame interrupting the darkness of the room around, is indeed spine-chilling! The woman narrates her story; they check on the scrap of paper each possesses, sharing its content; and when dying-last-flame licks their fingers, a vague realization arises around.
Before the girl could recollect and piece in things together the room around her vanishes. Dark veil finally falls off and she once again bangs with what blurrily seems to be the reality. Now, she visualises everything clearly— the thread that intertwines the girl’s and woman’s lives, very reason for this horrifying journey. What follows, where the girl finds herself lastly is more horrifying making my entire reading experience very pungent and healing!
So! Ludmilla is one of those forefront women writers crossing traditional literary boundaries and pitching away from stubborn patriarchal discourses. Her works have been banned for quite a long time. She derives her stories’ inspirations from fairy tales and folktales. I happened to land on this story, referred by one of my friends, as comparison with Nikolai Gogol’s “The Overcoat”. I never thought that Ludmilla and her writing could give me a great penchant for Russian women writing.
Playwright, novelist, and a rocking cabaret performer— a one-woman orchestra as she’s famously known in Moscow. Of her many works, Ludmilla has been mostly acclaimed for There Once lived a Woman who tried to kill her Neighbour’s baby, hitting the New York Times Bestseller list in 2009.
I’ve always wanted to put my reading experience into writing—venting out. With the fecund digital and social space, I’ve decided now the right time to plunge into my ambitious desire of getting to know as many women writers across the world, through their works, regardless of their geographic and ethnic existence. Yet, I’m against the idea of branding my blog as feminist as I choose to read on them purely for the writers’ purport and their ardent works.
I’d like you to be a part of my reading journey and get to know along with me the women writers who’ve been silently transfiguring their areas of interest.