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Dina Rubina
Dina Rubina was born in 1953 in the family of an artist and a history teacher in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Both her parents were Ukrainian Jews, each of them got to Tashkent in their own way -- mother with the waves of refugees from Poltava, father came back after the Second World War to his parents... show more

Dina Rubina was born in 1953 in the family of an artist and a history teacher in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Both her parents were Ukrainian Jews, each of them got to Tashkent in their own way -- mother with the waves of refugees from Poltava, father came back after the Second World War to his parents who were evacuated from Char'kov. Both families preserved rather artistic family legends about their ancestors. Her great-grandfather on the mother's side was a rabbi, great-grandfather on the father's side was a drayman in Warsaw, a man of such unbridled temper that Rubina's grandfather had to run away from home and never came back to his family.The writer's childhood was filled with family love and lack of space -- small apartments with not too much living space for a young girl. One room was always her father's studio with Dina's folding bed stuck among the canvases and paint tubes. "One of the nightmares of my childhood: in the middle of a night I touch, with my leg or arm, the latest portrait of Karl Marx ordered to my father by the next kolchoz and it falls down on me", -- many years later Rubina described that Soviet "comfort" in the novella Camera naezzhaet! (1995; translated as The Camera Zooms In!). The tightness both physical and social, the tightness of circumstances -- could it be the source of a constant, present already in Rubina's first stories, motif of an escape to freedom, the yearning for unbound space and absolute independence -- from social to metaphysical?..The first story Bespokoynaia Natura (1971; translated as Fidgety Nature) by Dina Rubina was published in the national magazine Yunost (circulation 3 million), in the humor department Green Case. Very soon Rubina began to write for the more serious prose department of Yunost, and the "fidgety natures" -- characters of the early Rubina's stories -- Po Subbotam (1974; translated as On Saturdays), Etot Chudnoy Altukhov (1976; translated as This Strange Altukhov), etc. -- came to the readers. In 1977 Rubina created an amazing in its lyrical intonation novella Kogda Ge Poydet Sneg? (1980; translated as So, When Will It Snow?). It tells the story of a growing-up of a teenager. Nina, the main character of the novel, is gravely ill but the lucid, warm feeling of the first love helps her to conquer the fear of non-existence. Rubina's very first novellas already showed examples of delicate psychological prose.In 1977, after graduating from the Tashkent Conservatory, Rubina began to work in the Institute of Culture. Her students were "the children of mountain shepherds" who had to grasp the European culture and bring it to the rural Asian auls of Uzbekistan. The writer recalls the pedagogical experience: "What exactly does a culture mean? And would we interbreed a shepherd's song... with a Schubert's serenade? Would it be better for the world culture... if the shepherd's song would live separately from the Schubert's one?.." (The Camera Zooms In!). Rubina's ironic question contains a very serious problem of a non-rendezvous between quite different cultural traditions that were tied together by force and slowly destroyed in this "international union" of the Soviet pseudo culture. Through her belonging to the Jewish cultural minority, Rubina knew how any ethnic culture was suppressed and humiliated in the Soviet "family of nations".Soon Rubina leaves behind teaching music and tries to earn her living by translating the Uzbek writers. In 1982 the Uzbek Ministry of Culture gives Rubina an award for the play Chudesnaya Doyra (produced, 1982; translated as The Magic Doira) written in cooperation with Rudolph Barinsky. The play was staged in the Tashkent Theater of Musical Comedy and was a great success. Later Rubina will write another play, loosely based on her earlier novel So, When Will It Snow?. The play was transformed into radio-- and teleplay that reached the national audience with a great success. However, the writer herself considers this episode of her biography with some skepticism: "To play my works in theater or cinema is as impossible as those of Iskander or Dovlatov. Prose of writers with a clearly expressed author intonation cannot be transferred to the movie screen or to the theater stage. One must only humbly accept this" (personal communication, January 2001). In 1984 Uzbekfilm will create a movie Nash Drug Rabotaet V Milizii (produced, 1984; translated as Our Friend Works In The Police) that was based on Rubina's early novella Zavtra Kak Obichno (1984; translated as Tomorrow As Usual) that describes the work of homicide detectives. The writer will later recall this event in her life as a real creative failure. However, exactly this story of making a movie will become a topic of her well-known later novella The Camera Zooms In!, where the writer will clearly define the main themes of her writings: the right of a human being for freedom and self-expression that are tragically suppressed by the forces of everyday personal and social circumstances.Stuffy and miserable atmosphere of life in the cultural province suffocates the young writer. Her thinking, her soul needs more space for her everyday and creative existence. As for many from her generation, this existential necessity of independence and spirituality leads the young writer to the dream of the characters from Chekov's "Three sisters" about Moscow as the cherished center of the free, sublime culture: "To Moscow, to Moscow..." Analyzing the generation of the Soviet 70s who was expelled" from their roles, their nests", who was deprived of its identity, critic Natalia Ivanova will write: "The creative province was pulled together toward the center, the cultural movement was centripetal"(essays Nostal'iashchee).In the middle of the 80s Rubina with her son from the first marriage moves to Moscow. She lives there as a freelance artist, constantly publishing her new fiction. Here she finds her personal happiness -a new family is created, her second child is born. The circle of her Moscow acquaintances is very wide -- musicians, artists, writers. However, Rubina feels the same "pressure of tightness": tightness spiritual, intellectual and political. The writer is dispirited by ideological cynicism that governs in Moscow, by the Orwellian doublethink that slowly transforms into personal immorality and social conformism. Cherished Moscow happens to be the same stuffed and enclosed space. Rubina' works come closer to the Yuri Trifonov's tradition of social psychological prose.The reader meets her new heroine-Liubka from the same-titled story (1989; translated as Liubka, 1991). The head of a gang, professional thief and criminal, Liubka turns out to be the only honest person, the only one who does not betray Irina Mikhailovna, the young Jewish doctor who becomes subject to alienation and persecution because of the "Doctors' case" in the mid-50's. Liubka is the most socio-political story by Rubina. Later in her works the ideological cause of the conflict leaves the central place for the ethnic identity and psychological issues. But this story reflects the unique socio-cultural atmosphere of the first perestroika years that invaded the Russian literature with bits of political and ideological conflicts. The "Jewishness" of Irina Mikhailovna serves as one of the equally apt social signs of alienation for Rubina. Later, remembering the Soviet past, the writer gives a painful, bleeding description of her personal life as "a way of the imprisoned" or "zone", and names her guardian angel as the "camp guard": "I picture my guardian angel as a camp guard, balding, with unclear drunkard's eyes, in thick wadded pants that smell like tobacco and disinfected train station restrooms... On attempt to escape from the zone, called life, my guardian angel grabs me by the collar and drags me through the stage of life, twisting my arms and kicking me. And this is the best of what he can do." (The Camera Zooms In). The dead, stiff "tightness" of the Soviet reality has strangled all that was alive and true in a human being, put out the fire of the passion of life. And the writer passionately tries to escape this "tightness" of the enclosed spaces.In exchange for questionable ideological and devaluated cultural values Rubina addresses the vital, eternal national foundations of a human being. Purified from its ethnic identity, a" distilled" ideal "Soviet people" provokes in the writer feelings of rejection and furious enmity. In the search of the genuine bases of the human existence Rubina refers to the ethnic sources of her kin. The individual search of the writer overlapped with the overall context of changes in the literature in Russia. Exactly during these perestroika years the theme of national identity could be clearly heard. Much later the critic Lev Anninsky in his article It's hard for a Jew to be Jewish... (Druzhba narodov, 1997) accurately described this phenomenon: "Jewishness as a "sign of memory" in defiance of forgetfulness, as a sign of firmness in the midst of instability. Finally, simply a SIGN in the midst of lack of any signs." The theme of forgotten, abased Jewishness becomes more and more persistent in Rubina's prose. The former motif of alienation from the surrounding world that was present in her early stories, in the early 90s takes shape of a more concrete theme of national Jewish ousting. While continuing to base her prose on a psychological elaboration of her characters and to work inside the tradition of the Moscow school of socio-psychological prose, Rubina starts to incline towards romanticizing ethnicity and ethnic culture.In 1990 Rubina with her family repatriates to Israel. This decision was profoundly deliberate and ripened but still very dramatic for the writer. It meant for her crossing a biographical, creative, personal boundary. The crisis was not creative but rather totally personal. "...The first weeks of the emigration seemed like a serious disease -- typhoid, cholera, with a fever, delirium, and not in one's own bed but in the heated goods wagon of a furious train that goes at full speed devil knows where (Vo Vratakh Tvoikh;1993; translated as In Thy Gate). On the way to her national identity Rubina goes by "the common course of a writing person, that is of a thinking person, hence of a lonely person... the first passionate desire is to merge in ecstasy, then -- a sobering, bewilderment, even shock when clashing with the vices from which it appears every, every people is not free -- including your own... a painful and even frightful -- period of alienation... then -- like in normal family life -- humbleness, fondness and at the end -- ordinary, stable, bitter love to what you have" (interview with the Voprosy Literatury, 1999).Henceforth the emigration becomes the key-theme for Rubina. "The circle was formed" -- writes Rubina in the novel Vot Idet Messiah (1996; translated as Here Comes the Messiah!, 2000): "She felt suddenly such an endless orphanhood; homelessness; misfortune and nauseating fear; felt how a spiritless hand moving apart the tissues is penetrating inside, into the thorax, and is emptying the tumor of soul with the metastases of the past". The tragedy has happened: in order to keep the opportunity to live and to feel, the soul contaminated with cancer was broken away; one had to renounce the past, the memory, had to bury herself, to get the funeral feast on the own grave -- and only then to begin a new life. Thus the idea of the resurrection comes to Rubina. Through this tragic idea of the union between the Death and the Resurrection suffer the main characters of Here Comes the Messiah!The novel Here Comes the Messiah! is probably the most important and complex creation of Dina Rubina. Once Rubina admitted that the structure of her texts "grows inside the text itself during the work on the text -- as circles inside the tree's trunk as it grows"(interview with the Voprosy literatury, 1999). The complicated structure of the novel results from the presence of a list of philosophical, ethical and esthetical problems. Philosophical and religious themes add some weight to the ironic description of the well being of an emigrant in the style of Shalom Aleichem. Rubina's previous heroine -- "fidgety nature", "through character", that moves from plot to plot, here splits into two, and the storyline carries on based on two protagonists. And the novel itself splits into two separate plots that develop parallel to each other and meet up at one point only in the final scene of the death of one of the heroines.The life of one of Rubina's protagonist, Ziama the emigrant, is typical for an expatriate of the Soviet Union: danger of unemployment, an almost non-existent salary in a small newspaper for Russian migrants, a difficult and dangerous everyday life in a village on the freed territory that is surrounded by the hostile Arab settlements. But this "small woman with a neck like a swan's" quietly and complacently endures all hardships, because for the first time in her life she doesn't feel like an orphan, like an alien. The feeling of kinship, of one bloodedness with the people, the common history and heritage -all this makes Ziama really happy. The writer's pen draws archaic, full of poetic beauty wonders, ethnic characters that Ziama, as well as the writer herself, "loves calmly, strongly, bitterly", loves sacrificially. "This woman was afraid of the dark and the bullet, but was not frightened by the face of her people"-Rubina crowns the heroine with a clear romantic halo. This image is poeticized and even idolized by the writer, who is creating her own legend about a wayward daughter, who has found, finally, the parents' house. It is therefore not coincidental that the death of Ziama is presented by the author as a sacrificial offering of the godly lamb, as a sacrifice that makes the future renaissance of the people of Israel possible.More than once did the critics make a note of the autobiographical nature of the "through character" of Rubina's protagonist. In 1999 in her interview with the magazine Voprosy literatury the writer confesses: "My heroes show from behind my shoulder... They are concerned about me without any reverence -- maybe they know that I am only one of them, not better or worse". The shortened distance between the author and the protagonist is a typical trait of Rubina's prose. The readers were proposed to look at the "promised land" with Ziama's meek glance, to try and experience her pain and joy from complete existence. But the narrator does not keep the identity of the protagonist during the entire novel; she rises above the heroine and looks at her from the eminence of her own great knowledge about the world and mankind, about the destiny of the heroine in this chronicle from the repatriates' life. In the last pages of the novel the distance between the narrator and the protagonist expands to the level of "heaven-and-earth", the voice of the narrator sounds like a divine prophetic tune of coming Messiah: "And when I come, when I appear, at last, to the rebellious house -recalcitrant tribes, -- I will, as promised, raise her from the dead... She is my substitute, she is my alternate, and she is my redemption".The metaphysical layer is one of the fundamental layers in the novel. Israel is thought through by Rubina as a "promised land", as a sacred land, the land of Moses' Commandments, waiting for the Messiah, a place where three great religions lead an argument about God. The high level of this argument determines both the respective level of the existence and self-understanding of the people who live in this argued land. This is why the undemanding, everyday story of the life and death of Ziama is consciously seen by the writer in the parameters of a parable about a heroine sacrificed "for the people, for their sins, for their lives, for their land... A different sacrifice is simply meaningless..."The second plot is created on the different, philosophical-psychological level. Here is the story of another emigrant from Russia, the writer N., the second solo-voice, the second hypostasis of the "fidgety nature". The writer N. is the one who designs the novel about a heroine-sacrifice. But unexpectedly for herself, this art project embodies the reality: under the pressure of creative energy the idea of the new novel incarnates as Ziama's real life and death. The sacred act of "substitution-redemption" acquires an extra, philosophical meaning: the sacrifice as a metaphysical substitute-redemption of the creative work by reality. Here as never before are the customary Rubina's domestic "annals" threaded with the conversation about the metaphysical spiritual nature of creativity, about the absolute freedom of a man-creator, about his argument with the Creator as with an equal.Writer N. -- like every genuine artist -- is an individual without borders and relationships, he stays on the outside of nation, history and law. Such kind of artist belongs to all of the mankind, to the world culture -- and doesn't belong to anybody. The artist is a citizen of the universe and that is the reason why he is doomed to eternal solitude. "The creative work as well as death -- they both are alike solitary acts" -- notices Rubina, -- "the writer's motherland is a prohibited inner space, bordered and secured by the watch-dogs of her habits, complexes, preferences, loves, -- the goods of the wanderer that she never refuses and that she keeps inside very-- very deep" (interview with Voprosy literatury, 1999). "I am kind of a peddler. ...this is some kind of vagrancy -- there you pick up a word, here you grab a picture, there you notice a human type..."(Ya -- Ophenya; 1997; translated as I Am a Peddler), "I escape from any chains, as it should be with an artist, ... although, of course, I address God constantly"-writes Rubina (personal communication, January 2001).After moving from Russia to Israel Rubina started not only a new life phase, but also a new phase of creative work. Critics in Russia did not understand the changes that happened to the writer. By placing Rubina into the category of a traditional emigrant "Russian-language literature", they characterized her prose as "female", filled with sentimentality and spicy eastern exotics. Measuring the Jerusalem books of Rubina by the scale of the old Moscow Triphonov style prose, critics in Russia did not notice that the writer tries to work on a new, untouched continent, to work with fresh clay, "from which the literary Golem is being created"(interview with Voprosy literatury, 1999). The mass emigration from the collapsing Soviet Union in the last third of the 20th century made the character of the Russian-language literature abroad more complicated. In particular, existence of a large mass of Russian-speaking emigrants in Israel brought to life not only a serious, independent political and social movement, but also served as a foundation for the development of a special "Russian-literary Israeli cocktail", the recipe for which, according to Rubina, is: "Let us take the Jewish national temperament, add a large portion of Soviet mentality, pour in to the thicket a full spoon of spicy emigrant problems, a handful grain of regular human vanity, half a cup of existential prophetic itch, then pour in unsparingly sincere love of Russian word and culture, heat it all on the Jerusalem's sun..." (interview with Voprosy literatury, 1999). The Jerusalem texts of Rubina are being built with a precious in itself, primary artistic material. This Golem consists of the complex context of both Russian and Jewish literary and cultural traditions. During the Jerusalem period the writer concentrates on the closed "domestic world", the internal space and the static, "eternal" time of the "promised land" that is squeezed "not only by the borders, ... but by a constant threat... that tomorrow ... the whole nation ... can cease to exist" (interview with Voprosy literatury, 1999). "The hidden tragedy of existence" of this dense nation-family is what burdens Rubina's conscience and defines the structure of her narration.Although Rubina continues to write in Russian and her internal connection with the Russian literature is not interrupted, the local space and the Hebrew linguistic environment form for her additional visual, auditory and associative overtones. "A strange hybrid of a different dimension is being born which drags behind a long train of shadows of different meanings", notices the writer (interview with the Voprosy literatury, 1999). Rubina is more and more involved in this play of words. The linguistic noise of the eternal land of Israel, the powerful verbal layer of the grinning East is now intertwined into the thin irony of her prose. Rubina's prose is justly compared to the prose of Dovlatov, Iskander, Shalom Aleichem.The writer has been working fruitfully during the whole last decade. In 1990 Rubina received the Arie Dulchin award for her book Odin Inteligent Uselsya Na Doroge (1994; translated as An Intellectual Sat Down on the Road). The novella In Thy Gates was nominated for the Russian Booker Prize award in 1994. In 1995 she received an award from the Israel Writer Union for her book Here Comes the Messiah! In 1997 the novel was nominated for the Russian Booker Prize award. Rubina's novella Dvoynaya Familiya (1990; translated as The Double-Barreled Name, 1990, excerpt) was recognized by an independent jury of the networked French bookstores as the best book of 1996 (French translation published in 1996 by ACTES SUD). Dina Rubina is the author of almost twenty books, her works are translated into 12 European languages and are well known all over the world.Marina Adamovitch
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Birth date: January 01, 1953
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tricours
tricours rated it 6 years ago
I hate most things about this book. The style of the author is extremely annoying, among other things she ends every other paragraph with an ellipsis. The tone of the narrator is arrogant and there is nothing that is actually interesting in this book, so in my opinion, it should never have been publ...
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