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Portrait of Claudia Erdheim
by Nina Werzhbinskaja-Rabinowich

Back Then Everything Was Better

Stories from Russia


Früher war alles besser

Geschichten aus Rußland

ISBN 3-85409-332-2


Claudia Erdheim has, with interruptions, spent almost two years in Russia, and has gotten to know the country with all its difficulties and absurdities. Her experiences are presented in this book in the form of five stories. Although each story stands on its own, the same persons are repeatedly encountered. "Kolya" is a crime story about a guitar instructor. Without his knowledge, his apartment is sold by one of his students. "Stomcomplex" tells about a stay at a dental clinic with Soviet-style sadistic doctors. In "Petersburg", life in a communal apartment is described. "Kasan" is about a six member family living together in a tiny apartment. The last story, "Fall Leaves" begins with the crisis of August 1998, and ends with the departure of the story-teller at the train station, where all the main characters of the stories gather to bid her farewell. Claudia Erdheim knows the country well. The reader finds out about all the difficulties one encounters living there. Be it slippery ice on streets that have not been salted, increase in prices, crowding in the subway or poverty. Proverbial Slavic hospitality and generosity are not left out. Moreover, the paradox between Soviet ways and the new Western way of life weaves through the book like a red thread. So as to give the reader an impression of the very different way of this country, there are descriptions in italics added between the texts, which present life on the streets like a film.