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For fans of Maggie Nelson and Eileen Myles, the lyrical and deeply moving story of a young queer woman’s journey across Russia to inter her mother’s ashes and to understand her sexuality, femininity, and grief
From one of Russia’s most exciting new voices, Wound follows a young lesbian poet on a journey from Moscow to her hometown in Siberia, where she has promised to bury her mother’s ashes. Woven throughout this fascinating travel narrative are harrowing and at times sublime memories of her childhood and her sexual and artistic awakening. As she carefully documents her grief and interrogates her past, the narrator of Oksana Vasyakina’s autobiographical novel meditates on queerness, death, and love and finds new words for understanding her relationship with her mother, her country, her sexuality, and her identity as an artist.
A sensual, whip-smart account of the complicated dynamics of queer life in present-day Siberia and Moscow, Wound is also in conversation with feminist thinkers and artists, including Susan Sontag, Louise Bourgeois, and Monique Wittig, locating Vasyakina’s work in a rich and exciting international literary tradition.
About the Author
OKSANA VASYAKINA is a Russian poet and curator. Her debut poetry collection, Women’s Prose, was short-listed for the Andrei Bely Prize in 2016, and the original Russian-language edition of Wound won the NOS Prize in 2021. She lives in Moscow, where she teaches courses on writing and feminist literature.
ELINA ALTER is a writer and translator. Her work appears in The Los Angeles Review of Books, BOMB, The Paris Review, The New England Review, and elsewhere. She is the editor of Circumference, a journal of translation and international culture.
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"Both an elegy to the dead and a homecoming . . . raw, hypnotic." —Fernanda Eberstadt, The New York Times Book Review
"Only an author of great skill could hold such disparate material together while also questioning her own method throughout the process . . . Vasyakina successfully folds the untidy past into the unsettled present, demonstrating how inseparable they are to the person she is." —Declan O'Driscoll, The Irish Times
"[An] affecting début novel." —The New Yorker
"The dangerous territory of being a queer woman in present-day Russia is the subject of this novel—movingly translated by Elina Alter—which follows a young lesbian poet as she makes the trek from Moscow to her hometown in Siberia to bury her mother’s ashes." —Emma Specter, Vogue
"[A] magnificent debut . . . which will take you on a journey unlike any other." —Chaya Colman and Sophie Ezra, Glamour
"Bruisingly honest reflections on gender and trauma, brilliantly mediated by Elina Alter’s translation." —The Times Literary Supplement
"Wound is a very personal work, a deep dive into the author/narrator’s consciousness. American readers might be reminded of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, and Kate Zambreno’s Drifts—books that largely abandon the trappings of external plot for a stream-of-consciousness romp through the bookish female narrator’s thoughts and experiences. Vasyakina, however, takes a much greater risk in writing about her personal life; following the passing of a 2022 law, so-called LGBTQ 'propaganda' is now illegal in Russia . . . Alter’s translation captures the simple, understated nature of Vasyakina’s prose . . . [A] novel that feels both Western and Russian, feminist and queer. In a 'Russian world' that is closing in on her, Vasyakina fights to keep a small space open." —Kat Solomon, Chicago Review of Books
"A target of censorship in Russia, Wound holds nothing back in its exploration of complex relationships, including lesbian ones . . . A wide-ranging novel that reflects on death, grief, womanhood, creativity, and women’s sexuality." —Eileen Gonzalez, Foreword Reviews
"One of Russia’s most exciting new voices . . . A sensual, whip-smart account of the complicated dynamics of queer life in present-day Siberia and Moscow, Wound is also in conversation with feminist thinkers and artists, including Susan Sontag, Louise Bourgeois, and Monique Wittig, locating Vasyakina’s work in a rich and exciting international literary tradition." —LGBTQ Reads, A Most Anticipated Title of the Year
"Late last year, ten months after the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government passed a law banning open expressions of LGBTQ identity, which they deemed 'propaganda.' The voices of queer Russians are necessary now more than ever, to be broadcast loud and proud, so it feels particularly special to have this moving and wonderfully witty work of autofiction." —Michelle Hart, Electric Literature
"Ambitious in scope . . . Vasyakina powerfully encompasses the absurd and expansive universe of what Gogol described as the 'unbridled incomprehensible Rus,' the land with its terrors, its poetry and loftiness and its magic, to the skin and bones of the tender and violent people who inhabit it." —Roxana Kadyrova, The Rumpus
"[A] stirring English-language debut . . . The narrative is distinguished by its dry wit and philosophical import, which Alter . . . renders in razor-sharp prose . . . Vasyakina stuns with this bold and emotionally raw chronicle." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Vasyakina uses every tool at her disposal to try and make sense of death and its relation to memory. What’s left is a deeply intimate novel, and the sense that the mother-daughter relationship at its heart is evolving still." —Booklist
"Oksana Vasyakina’s sensitive novel about the death of her mother doubles as a ferociously intelligent portrait of a vast and brutal country, traumEugeneatized by traumatized men. Elina Alter does justice to Vasyakina’s style, whose clarity and unpretentiousness results in a work of great inner power." —Eugene Ostashevsky, author of The Feeling Sonnets
"In this moving, poetic autobiographical novel, family trauma is inseparable from national history. Returning to Siberia with her mother's ashes, a daughter revisits the primal scenes of four generations. In the process, she invents a new way of existing as a queer woman from the Russian provinces." —Sophie Pinkham, author of Black Square: Adventures in Post-Soviet Ukraine
"Deeply moving, Wound flows from a faith in the emancipatory power of literature that has become all too rare. One of the most refreshing young voices I've encountered in contemporary literature." —Jessi Jezewska Stevens, author of The Exhibition of Persephone Q and The Visitors
“Acutely necessary. Wound is a bold, human, powerful meditation on how a language of love and death takes shape.” —Polina Barskova, author of Living Pictures
"In Vasyakina's magnificent Wound, a woman goes on a pilgrimage to bury her mother's ashes in the small Siberian town of her birth, a place where lesbians 'didn't exist.' Urn under arm, the prodigal daughter returns: a queer in Putin's Russia, a poet who first glimpses herself whole—'soft and agape'—in the gaze of her girlfriend. The narration pivots through time in Elina Alter's resonant translation. 'Poetry is my method of forgetting in such a way that what I forget becomes known to others.' I remain awed by the expansive emotional geography of this book, which reads like a novel yet tastes like a poem." —Alina Stefanescu, author of Dor