New Vessel Press | 201 pages
The Good Life Elsewhere is a very funny book. It is also a very sad one. Moldovan writer Vladimir Lorchenkov tells the story of a group of villagers and their tragicomic efforts, against all odds and at any cost, to emigrate from Europe’s most impoverished nation to Italy for work. This is a book with wild imagination and heartbreaking honesty, grim appraisals alongside optimistic commentary about the nature of human striving. In Lorchenkov’s uproarious tale, an Orthodox priest is deserted by his wife for an art-dealing atheist; a rookie curling team makes it to an international competition; a mechanic redesigns his tractor for travel by air and sea; thousands of villagers take to the road on a modern-day religious crusade to make it to the promised land of Italy; meanwhile, politicians remain politicians. Like many great satirists from Voltaire to Gogol to Vonnegut, Lorchenkov makes use of the grotesque to both horrify us and help us laugh. It is not often that stories from forgotten countries such as Moldova reach us in the English-speaking world. A country where 25 percent of its population works abroad, where remittances make up nearly 40 percent of the GDP, where alcohol consumption per capita is the highest in the world, and which has the lowest per capita income in all of Europe – this is a country that surely has its problems. But, as Lorchenkov vividly shows, it’s a country whose residents don’t easily give up.
Vladimir Lorchenkov, writer and journalist, was born in Chisinau, Moldova, the son of a Soviet army officer, in 1979. In his childhood he traveled across the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, including Transbaikal, the Arctic, Byelorussia, Ukraine, Hungary, Mongolia. When his family returned to Moldova, he studied journalism and for ten years was in charge of crime coverage at a local newspaper. Lorchenkov is a laureate of the 2003 Debut Prize, one of Russia’s highest honors given to young writers, the Russia Prize in 2008, and was short-listed for the National Bestseller Prize in 2012. Lorchenkov has published a dozen books, and his work has been translated into German, Italian, Norwegian, Finnish, Serbo-Croatian and Finnish. He is married with two children, and still lives in his hometown.
Translated from Russian by Ross Ufberg. A graduate of Hamilton College, he is a PhD Candidate at Columbia University in the Slavic Department. His fiction, translations and journalism have appeared in The Forward, Heeb, Harlequin Creature, Habitus, GALO and other places. Memoir of A Gulag Actress, a translation from the Russian with Yasha Klots, was published in 2010; Beautiful Twentysomethings, a translation from Polish of the memoir of the writer Marek Hłasko, is forthcoming in 2013. Ross is a co-founder of New Vessel Press.