Buida, Yuri 1954-
BUIDA, Yuri 1954-
PERSONAL: First name sometimes transliterated "Iurii," born 1954, in Wehlau (now Znamensk), East Prussia (now Kalingrad, Russia).
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dedalus, Ltd., Langford Lodge, St. Judith's Lane, Sawtry, Cambridgeshire PE28 5XE, England.
CAREER: Author and journalist.
AWARDS, HONORS: Apollon Grigor'ev prize for fiction, 1999; Russian Booker Prize, shortlisted, 1994, for Don Domino, and 1999, for Prusskaya nevesta.
Don Domino, 1993, translated by Oliver Ready as The Zero Train, Dedalus (Sawtry, Cambs, England), 2001.
Boris and Gleb, 1997.
Prusskaya nevesta (stories), Novoe literturnoe obozrenie (Moscow, Russia), 1998, translation by Oliver Ready published as The Prussian Bride, Dedalus (Sawtry, Cambs, England), 2002.
Gorod Palachei (title means "City of Executioners"), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Yuri Buida is a contemporary writer of Russian, Ukranian, Polish, and Belorussian descent. Buida was born in East Prussia, a region formerly populated by Germans, the last of whom were deported in 1948 as the new Soviet population renamed the streets and village squares. Buida longed to know the history of the place, but the community could offer him little information about the seven centuries preceding the Russian takeover. Harry Walsh wrote inGermano-Slavica that "his teachers offered little assistance: here, they would offer, there was militarism and aggression, [philosopher Immanuel] Kant lived and died here, and that was all. The ethnographic puzzle remained in its box: the Baltic Prussians who had preceded the Teutonic Knights were generally thought to have been Slavs, which fiction offered the smallest fig-leaves to those wishing to justify the assignment of that part of the Baltic coast to the U.S.S. R." Buida's investigations finally unearthed the history, and he used it in fiction that was infused with fantasy, sexuality, and the supernatural.
In The Zero Train Ivan Ardabyev sacrifices his life to a Kafkaesque train that travels through rural Russia, the cargo of which he never learns. Rachel Polonsky noted in the Times Literary Supplement that "the crudeness of Buida's symbolism is entirely appropriate; the train that kills Ardabyev dramatizes the destructive power of a ubiquitous public metaphor. For in the ideocratic culture of Stalinism, in which literature and propaganda overlapped and fed off one another, the locomotive provided a self-justifying symbol of Communist progress." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called The Zero Train "a rich, provocative allegory … and a fine introduction to an important contemporary Russia writer." Walsh wrote that "if in his novels Buida is concerned with the harmful effects of Russia's retarded development of a secular civil society on the ruling and educated classes, in the Prussian stories, he demonstrates the putative pernicious effects of this enduring social malady, as it trickles down to the workers, peasants, petty bureaucrats, and lumpen comprising the pereselentsy in the former East Prussia, who generally lack the experiences that would allow them to transcend reliance on the primitive binarism of svoe/chuzhoe."
The Prussian Bride is a collection of thirty-two stories. Steve Penn, reviewing the volume for Nthposition.com, wrote that in these stories "there is love, in all its many and strange forms, there are people, strange and twisted, and there is death. There is lots of death. The forced repatriation of the German inhabitants of East Prussia hangs like a cyclorama behind the freaks and superheroes of Buida's world…. Never have I read a book with so many characters so well realized that was not written before the seventeenth century." Penn noted that religious threads run through the stories and called the stories' miracles "the book's crowning glory."
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Buida's home, the Kaliningrad region situated between Poland and Lithuania, became isolated from the rest of Russia, and his stories reflect the anomalies of its history and the issue of identity. Tom MacFaul wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that Buida's name in Polish means liar, and said that "this appropriately reflects the imaginative invention that gives meaning to the lives of a populace who lack a clear place in history." MacFaul noted that the families in The Prussian Bride "are disjointed, cobbled together from casually adopted orphans and catatonic or otherwise absent wives and husbands…. The form of the stories is wonder fully varied, and the different registers are brilliantly captured by the translator."
Walsh concluded by saying that "Buida's stories of Russian East Prussia appear to represent a kind of purging of invented memories of an only partly witnessed violation of inter-ethnic understanding, as little pardonable as the destruction of the 'northern Saracens' by Teutonic Knights seven centuries earlier. With the steady, lapidary force of generational change, homo sovieticus is being replaced by homo postsovieticus, and Buida can write with some cause for optimism: 'My little homeland has a German past, a Russian present, and a human future.'"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Germano-Slavica, 2000, Harry Walsh, "Tales from Nowhere: Iurii Buida's Stories of Russian East Prussia," p. 67.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2001, review of The Zero Train, p. 1454.
Times Literary Supplement, January 25, 2002, Rachel Polonsky, review of The Zero Train, p. 23; October 18, 2002, Tom MacFaul, review of The Prussian Bride, p. 25.
World Literature Today, April-June, 2003, Joseph Mozur, review of The Zero Train, p. 150.
Nthposition.com, http://www.nthposition.com/ (August 19, 2002), Steve Penn, review of The Prussian Bride.