The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight

Gina Ochsner

In a crumbling apartment building in post-Soviet Russia, there’s a ghost who won’t keep quiet.

Mircha fell from the roof and was never properly buried, so he sticks around to heckle the living: his wife, Azade; Olga, a disillusioned translator/censor for a military newspaper; Yuri, an army veteran who always wears an aviator’s helmet; and Tanya.

Tanya carries a notebook wherever she goes, recording her observations and her dreams of finding love and escaping her job at the All-Russia All-Cosmopolitan Museum, a place which holds a fantastic and terrible collection of art knockoffs created using the tools at hand, from foam to chewing gum, Popsicle sticks to tomato juice. When the museum’s director hears of a mysterious American group seeking to fund art in Russia, it looks like she might get her chance at a better life, if she can only convince them of the collection’s worth. Enlisting the help of Azade, Olga and even Mircha, Tanya scrambles to save her dreams and her neighbors, and along the way discovers that love may have been waiting in her own courtyard all along.

And so in Ochsner’s fable-like, magical debut, we see the transcendence of imagination. As Colum McCann has said: “[Ochsner] manages . . . to capture our sundry human moments and make raw and unforgettable music of them.”

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