I have to declare a personal interest in choosing a story from Sovetica, a project I had been acquainted with – and excited about – since its inception, and supplied an Afterword for its eventual publication. The project was for Caroline Clark to record the reminiscences of her Russian husband’s late-Soviet adolescence, in Russian, which she translated and lightly edited so they retained their spontaneity, their down-beat matter-of-factness, a determinedly non-literary nature.
‘Factory’ is one among a number that stand out for being very funny – the natural wry humour of life. It’s an account of the narrator starting a new job, for which he is supposed to bring a black work coat. He can’t, at the last minute, find one so borrows a white one from his mother, an engineer. He discovers that his white coat allows him to just wander round the factory, unchallenged as he chats instead of working; he’s been mistaken for a supervisor. That’s all – yet that all is so much.
Collected in SOVETICA, CB Editions, 2021