Newmag Publishing House in the frames of Oracle Armenian-Russian translation series published “Zuleikha Opens her Eyes” by Guzel Yakhina. The book is considered as one of the most significant Russian contemporary novels. It was translated into more than 20 languages.According to the Los Angeles Times, Yakhina follows the best traditions of Lev Tolstoy depicting powerless people in the vortex of history. And L’Humanitécalled it a “powerful novel.” According to literary critics, this book is an outstanding literary breakthrough of the recent years.
The book tells a story of Zuleikha, a young Tatar woman, who lives with her brutal husband Murtaza and her sadistic mother-in-law. The novel begins in 1930 when Stalin’s “dekulakization” campaign starts in the Soviet Union. When Murtaza is executed by communist soldiers, she is sent into exile to Siberia. Hundreds of deportees together with Zuleikha are being transported by freight train to Siberia. She goes through inhuman challenges, miraculously survives, and gets her share of “ordinary female happiness”.
The life stories of homeless people with unknown destinies become the storyline of Guzel Yakhina’s novel. The book was inspired by the true story of her grandmother who survived the Siberian exile, which, nevertheless, was hardly referred to by the author in the book. Instead, Yakhina put down the memoirs of other exiles. All the stories in the book cover the period of 1930-1946. Guzel Yakhina has brilliantly presented the controversial topic of the Stalin period horrors with historical accuracy and sensitivity. It is a page-turner.
For about two years, Yakhina studied historical and archival documents. The actual process of writing of the novel took eight months. Initially, Yakhina wrote a screenplay as an academic task at the Moscow Film School. According to literary critics, the novel “Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes” is an outstanding debut. In 2015, it was awarded the “Book of the Year”, “Reader’s Book” and “Yasnaya Polyana” literary awards. A play is being staged at the Bashkir Drama Theater. Russia’s First Channel produced TV series, starring Chulpan Khamatova as Zuleikha.