‘Sovetskoye Shampanskoye’ by Berit Ellingsen

This and the following flash, ‘Family’, come from Flash Fiction International, an anthology from Norton, but I’ve managed to source them online. Nine numbered paragraphs tell the life of a resident in Soviet Russia, from his childhood under the northern lights to the moments before his execution by firing squad on Glienicke bridge. In between childhood and death; the evocation of a cold, stirring world of gilded rooms, regional ‘Champagne’, and state secrets.

‘6 are the white tiles he spatters when they ask about his wife’s documents and microfilms, again and again. He tells them about her late hours in the committee building. They apprehend her and she doesn’t come back. Behind the gilded Regency doors, underneath the unlit crystal, he stands in silence while he considers the nature of truth. He takes up a new position.’

It’s one of those pieces you can read endlessly, or imagine as a full-length film or novel. But it isn’t either of those things. The author has chosen to give us slivers. In doing so, she is not denying her readers a longer more immersive work. She is distilling. She is passing us photographs and black-redacted snippets in a manila envelope; this much is enough risk, revelation.

(Read online at Smokelong Quarterly)