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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Bride and Groom

Alisa Ganieva

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To purchase Bride and Groom

Title: Bride and Groom
Author: Alisa Ganieva
Genre: Novel
Written: 2015 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 239 pages
Original in: Russian
Availability: Bride and Groom - US
Bride and Groom - UK
Bride and Groom - Canada
Eine Liebe im Kaukasus - Deutschland
  • Russian title: Жених и невеста
  • Translated by Carol Apollonio
  • With an Afterword by the author

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Our Assessment:

B : fine little slice of contemporary Dagestan life

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 26/10/2016 Tilman Spreckelsen
NZZ . 31/12/2016 Ilma Rakusa
The Observer . 25/3/2018 Viv Groskop
World Lit. Today . 11-12/2017 Emily D. Johnson
Die Zeit . 8/12/2016 Moritz Scheper

  From the Reviews:
  • "Natürlich ist das eine durchaus schematische Konstruktion, und die Autorin lässt sie aufscheinen, indem etwa die Kapitel abwechselnd aus Patjas und aus Marats Perspektive erzählt werden oder sich die beiden exakt in der Mitte des Romans zum ersten Mal begegnen. Damit setzt Ganijewa aber auch das Signal, dass es um mehr geht als um Eine Liebe im Kaukasus, wie der deutsche Titel ein wenig irreführend verspricht." - Tilman Spreckelsen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Die Lektüre nimmt gefangen, und dies nicht nur wegen des klugen Romanaufbaus, der Perspektivenwechsel und der mit Jugendslang und Elementen dagestanischer Idiome angereicherten Sprache, die Christiane Körner glänzend ins Deutsche übertragen hat." - Ilma Rakusa, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Ganieva investigates what would happen if you decided to embrace your heritage. (...) The dialect feel to Ganieva’s writing is distinctly captured in Carol Apollonio’s translation. At first it feels clunky and uncomfortable. (...) But you settle into it and realise how it reflects the impossibilities of these characters’ worlds: everyone appears to be speaking the same language but in reality everything is all mixed up. A bold and startling novel reminiscent of the best of Elif Shafak’s fiction." - Viv Groskop, The Observer

  • "Grotesque details occasionally hint at a satiric purpose, but ultimately this is a tenser, sadder tale that underscores the horror and despair of post-Soviet life. Ganieva immerses us in a world where corruption and violence are so widespread and legal protections so meaningless that even love at first sight cannot guarantee a happy ending. (...) This is a timely novel for anyone who follows news from Russia, Chechnya, Dagestan, and other post-Soviet areas. (...) Strongly recommended." - Emily D. Johnson, World Literature Today

  • "Doch ähnlich wie Rainer Werner Fassbinder nutzt Ganijewa diese populäre ästhetische Form, um über etwas ganz anderes zu erzählen. Denn mehr noch als jede Verliebtheit in den "teeschimmernden Augen" verbindet Marat und Patja die Gratwanderung zwischen der Moskauer Moderne und der archaischen Realität Dagestans." - Moritz Scheper, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The bride and groom of the title are Patya and Marat, and the story is presented in alternating chapters switching back and forth between them -- Patya's chapters in the first person, Marat's in the third. For most of the novel they aren't actually but rather potentially bride and groom -- with quite a few potential partners beyond each other passing review as well. Both Patya and Marat have been working in Moscow and have now returned to their Dagestan families, who want to marry them off. Twenty-five year-old Patya is dangerously close to the age when, locally, she will be considered over the hill and her family fears that if they don't rush things along they won't even be able give her away, while Marat's family thinks it's also high time for him to get married -- so much so that they've simply gone ahead and set a date and booked a banquet hall: "The only thing that's missing is the bride", Marat notes.
       Both families -- both mothers, in particular -- have lined up some potential (if not necessarily suitable) candidates, and there are some not very subtle efforts at matchmaking and meetings with potential-brides/grooms. Yet despite the centrality of the partner-hunt to the novel, it's also treated fairly casually by the characters -- willing to play along, and often annoyed by their parents' and families' ideas, but not obsessing solely about this.
       Both Patya and Marat experienced the big city -- Moscow, a world away from the small backwoods republic in the Caucasus. For Patya, in particular, it was a year-long escape, exposing her to a more cosmopolitan world -- with her family of course concerned about her losing touch with the old, traditional ways and her roots. Certainly, things move at a different pace here, and there are specific expectations about behavior and roles, especially between the sexes. Patya still understands and is attentive to her place and how she can act: the big city hasn't spoiled her that much. Everyone gossips, so great care must be taken about behavior: word gets around very fast in this small community -- something everyone is keenly aware of.
       Among the local tensions are also religious ones: overwhelmingly Muslim, there are nevertheless competing mosques and strains of ideology. There are concerns about militants -- while in-your-face displays of atheism are also brutally beaten down. Hovering in the background is a near-mystical figure, Khalilbeck, being held by the authorities but enjoying great popular support and both widely feared and revered for his powers.
       Patya's most aggressive suitor -- who becomes a bit stalker-ish -- is Timur, whom she had been corresponding with for a while while in Moscow, but who turned out to be not at all to her liking when she finally met him. The dangers of showing any sort of interest or attention are made clear by her friend's summing up of the situation Patya got herself into:

Of course he figured that if you wrote to him and answered his messages, that meant you want to marry him ...
       Patya and Marat's paths only cross well into the novel, and their courtship consists of only a few encounters, but they are kindred spirits and realize what they have found in each other quickly and easily. Despite some parental misgivings -- including about the haste with which things proceed (that booked banquet hall making for a deadline of sorts) and one of the family's connections with Khalilbeck -- everyone eventually goes along with it.
       The relatively simple story is a more understated romance than most -- in part also thanks to Ganieva's presentation: it would have been easy to play up the families' meddling hysteria into high drama, but with the narrative focused on Ganieva's level-headed and fairly calm couple it never gets out of hand. Nevertheless, there's also a background sense of simmering tension -- in the community, rather than truly close to home -- as well as some confrontations and flaring up of menace. The complex and threatening political, religious, and criminal realities -- themselves often also ambiguous, with various possible explanations, both good and bad -- are not in the forefront, but they are also inescapable (so also in the novel's conclusion, which is also not that of your typical romance).
       Bride and Groom is a nice little novel of contemporary Dagestan life, Ganieva's light touch allowing for a low-key but still very revealing socio-cultural profile. A consistently humorous touch, and the weaving in of Sufi-tradition -- explained more fully by Ganieva in her Afterword -- make for a sprightly novel -- though perhaps also skimming too lightly across the surface (even as it suggests a much darker, deeper expanse beneath).

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 May 2018

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Bride and Groom: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Russian author Alisa Ganieva (Алиса Ганиева; Alissa Ganijewa) was born in 1985.

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© 2018-2021 the complete review

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