Weirdwards: Ptichka, Laura Mauro

I enjoy reading stories in public but only get occasional chances to do it so I thought I’d spend some time while in lockdown to record some myself. My set-up is pretty minimal but I hope the readings are still enjoyable. I’m aiming to keep to stories that can be read in 20 minutes or less, so these will all be pretty short works.

Laura Mauro’s Ptichka sits on a wonderful cusp of weird and realist fiction. In my review of Sing Your Sadness Deep, the collection from which this story comes, I claimed that Ptichka “is a story about the truest of ghosts; the ghosts not of the dead but of the living” and I stil stand by that claim. Ptichka, I feel, talks about how people become ghosts not by dying but by fading away from what their lives could have been.

Ptichka, which means “little bird” in Russian, is not an easy story to read. It talks powerfully about the structural violence that pervades our society, about how women and immigrants and the poor are at best ignored, at worst actively reviled. It talks about, to quote myself again, “hope and loss, and of how sorrow is boiled into madness by the friction between them”.

It is heart-breaking and angering and beautiful.

Sing Your Sadness Deep is available from Undertow Publications.

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