An Escalating Self-Disclosure

Medea, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya


There's an urge among magazine editors to publish short fiction by writers outside the U.S., particularly those from beyond the "traditional" western world. Most of them seem to this reader clumsy imitations of tired MFA stylistics. Petrushevskaya's story here – published in the June 2011 issue of Harper's Magazine – seems a well advised and most welcome throwback to Anton Chekov.

Self disclosure is usually reckoned to be the conscious and unconscious act of revealing more about yourself to someone else. This story, almost totally in dialogue, takes place between a Russian cabbie and his fare, and is one such exercise in self disclosure. 

There's not much I can write about the story without spoiling your enjoyment, but let me say this: The fare, a woman, climbs into the cab, complaining that her poor grandmother, due to scheduling foul-ups, has missed her train. The cabbie counters with an escalating series of his own plaints, which leads to, as the fare/narrator says in the first sentence, "an awful story."


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