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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Masha Regina

Vadim Levental

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To purchase Masha Regina

Title: Masha Regina
Author: Vadim Levental
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 294 pages
Original in: Russian
Availability: Masha Regina - US
Masha Regina - UK
Masha Regina - Canada
  • Russian title: Маша Регина
  • Translated by Lisa C. Hayden

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Our Assessment:

B : fine artist/character-study

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The title character of Masha Regina is a small-town girl who is driven to bigger things, desperate already at a young age to escape her provincial upbringing and surroundings. On the thinnest reed of hope she jumps at the first chance she sees -- a boarding school in distant Petersburg she hears about, which she hopes (entirely unrealistically) to get into based on the open entrance exams they give. What she is escaping is made clear from the train ride:

     Tiny village and small cities flew past Masha and all of them, every last one, looked like where she'd spent her life.
       Within some twenty-four hours she meets two of the three men who will be significant figures in her life: Roma, the boy who helps her find her way to the school once she's in the big city, and A.A., the teacher who ensures that she can attend the school's summer program after she miserably fails the entrance exams (her provincial schooling not preparing her for them in the least), giving her another chance to take them and gain admission at the end of the summer.
       Masha is determined to change her life and throws herself into this opportunity -- and succeeds, beginning a path that will lead her to become a famous and acclaimed European film director. When asked how she came to become a film director she at one point admits that: "it had happened by chance", but everything the very determined young woman did was bound to lead to some sort of artistic expression, in some medium -- even as luck and coincidence played a large role in the unfolding of her life and career,
       From relatively early on there is mention of Masha's films, connections made with the biographical details in the otherwise largely chronological account. Much of the basis of the films is found in early experience and work -- so too the drawings she makes long before she's even tried her hand at filming: "Much of what she will draw appears later, in her films".
       Masha goes her own way. Several times she returns to her hometown, visiting her parents -- but she inevitably quickly flees again, making excuses. A driving force to her art -- and her life -- is guilt, about leaving her parents, about the men in her life, eventually about her child. Masha is consumed by her vision and her work; except for very brief periods it takes precedence over everything else -- it entirely takes over, already from the first time she has the opportunity to make a film.
       Masha becomes a European director, but Russia remains part of her -- "No matter where I am, I'm in Russia". It is this dichotomy, of presence and absence, that marks her life and her relationships: even as she remains close to places and people, in one sense, she can not be with them -- present, involved -- in the way they hope for. She remains an island, unto herself; the final passages appropriately have her imagining a film about Columbus, a (lone) figure she can relate to in his determination to reach a destination (only s)he believes in.
       Masha Regina is the story of a successful artist, and what she sacrifices for her art, and even if variations of this story-arc are overly familiar, Levental's approach makers for a striking personal portrait. He doesn't make too much of the different films -- not bothering with lengthy summaries or scene-by-scene descriptions --, even as he integrates them well into the story; he makes Masha a magazine-cover celebrity but doesn't wallow in this status -- it's almost incidental. Masha does remain a distant figure -- defined by her drive, more than anything else -- and readers might wish for more insight into her actual art (and, through it, possibly her person), but the narrative is strong enough as is.
       A compelling artist-portrait and character-study.

- M.A.Orthofer, 7 May 2016

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Masha Regina: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of literature from Russia

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About the Author:

       Russian author Vadim Levental (Вадим Левенталь) was born in 1981.

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