“The Divorce” - A Short Story about married life in Siberia by Vyacheslav Shishkov - 1925 - translated from Russian by Mirra Ginsburg - from The Fatal Eggs and other Soviet Satire - 2007
Born October 3, 1971 - Bezhichi, Russia
Died March 6, 1945 -Moscow
Vyacheslav Shishkov worked for many years as an engineer in Siberia, supervising work on rivers and canals. Maxine Gorky helped him get his first book, a collection of set in Siberia short stories, published in 1916. After his death he was awarded the Stalin Prize.
“There lived on this earth of ours a man and his wife, Ivan and Marya Prirodov, both of them weavers. For ten years they lived together in peace and harmony. It’s true there were some minor rows between them now and then, but that is normal, that’s the way it’s always been, according to every law. Everything in nature is a tooth for a tooth, a fang for a fang. Even ravening wolves in the forest fight. Why, then, should people live in total peace, if they’re descended from a monkey?”
“Divorce”, set in Siberia, is about a divorce over petty issues. The husband had suggested that like most women his wife still turned to religion because she was weak. He tells his wife she should be more like Vera
“The breakup was brought about by two faiths. One faith was in God, the other in ideology. And, then, there was Vera, with her red kerchief, also a weaver. Being a weak female, Marya was religious. Ivan was a free thinker. The breakup was brought about by two faiths. One faith was in God, the other in ideology. And, then, there was Vera, with her red kerchief, also a weaver. Being a weak female, Marya was religious. Ivan was a freethinker. At the meeting, when it was decided to convert the church into a theater, Marya nearly started a fistfight. In retaliation, and in conformity with ideology, Ivan took down all the icons from the wall at home, muttering, “Take a look at Vera. Why, critically speaking, you aren’t fit to tie her shoe. How in hell did I ever live with you?” “Phooey!” spat his wife. The rest is clear of itself. After the divorce, they came back to their room as strangers.”
Of course as any married man could predict, this was a major blunder. His wife tells him just leave and take up with Verna. Things accelerate and they get divorced. His wife tells him move out but he cannot find a place. So he sleeps on the floor, they talk only to fight. When his wife undresses she tells him to look away. Nights are cold in Siberia so his wife says he can sleep in the bed but only back to back. One night to get revenge she starts kissing him but intentionally called him by another man’s name. Of course he goes nuts accusing her of having an affair. She then throws Verna, whom he barely even knows in his face, and says she is free to do as she wants
They end up remarrying seeing it all as the result of snowballing from a petty fight.
The dialogue is very well done
“Marya yawned, glanced at the clock on the wall—it was ten—and began to make the bed. “Turn around!” she cried to Ivan, as though he were a beggar nagging for a handout. “You’re nothing to me now—just so much dirt. I’ve got to undress. Go and ogle your Verka.” Ivan turned away. Marya undressed, made the sign of the cross over the pillows, and lay down. “Can I turn now?” asked Ivan, but there was no answer. Where was he to sleep? There was no sofa. Perhaps on the chairs? “Oh, what the devil! I’ll lie down on the floor.”
The wife calls the woman by different names just to antagonize Ivan.
Unless you read Russia, it looks like this is the only work by the author available to you
I would like to read his 1916 collection of Siberian short stories one day.