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Another Matter


A collection of brilliant short stories that’s equal parts Kafka, Chekhov, and sketch comedy.

Intelligent and emotional, heartfelt and sardonic, imaginative and gritty, Alla Gorbunova’s gemlike miniatures are a serious literary accomplishment. In her third book of prose, the award-winning St. Petersburg writer reveals the extraordinary and the meaningful in the everyday. Set in Moscow and Petersburg in the troubled nineties and aughts, these philosophical, frightening, and mordantly funny tales feature hitchhikers and street artists, over-protective grandparents and terrible boyfriends, teenage outcasts and lifelong rebels, philosophers and schoolchildren. And all the members of this misfit cast are transformed by Gorbunova’s unique and generous storytelling, redeemed through wit, close observation, and grace.

Throughout this poignant and hilarious collection, Gorbunova draws on her own life as a rebellious teenager, university student, accomplished poet, and, eventually, a mother. For a young girl, an angry lapdog becomes the world’s most dangerous animal. A promising future as a professor somehow dead-ends into a day job as a nude artist’s model. A juvenile prank at a high school reunion becomes a final farewell to a beloved relative. A rusty old alarm- clock is the key to understanding the nature of time, and a parent’s quest to retrieve her son’s toy car is a testament both to unconditional love and to the futility of human effort.

 Gorbunova’s stories borrow from philosophical thought experiments, contemporary autofiction, and a long Russian traditional of funny anecdotes. As usual, she handles profound metaphysical questions with a deceptively light touch, and the results are both inimitable and unforgettable.

Alla Gorbunova’s prose is deeply authentic, and speaks to all sorts of readers — from authoritative literary critics, artists, and philosophers, to college and high school students. This book is no exception. Hilarious, sad, poignant, and occasionally frightening, these wonderfully lively tales are shot through with the light of her soul, the light of “another matter.” Lyrical sketches that are profound rather than long — with something in them of medieval exempla, the Japanese zuihitsu, and the comic anecdote, in which everything is just fine, except when it isn’t. Many of these tales are as paradoxical as their heroine, who remains somehow at a distance from everyday life while being in the middle of it all. As she herself admits, over half of her consciousness is an inferno of anxiety and terror, while the rest is in a primeval paradise wherein where evil is impossible.

— Ksenia Buksha, a writer


With her third book of prose Gorbunova develops the tradition of concocting texts on the borderline between reality and fiction. In part, it is diary notes, in part – adventures of her lyrical hero, or both.


The anecdotes from the blurred life in this collection under a snowy-white cover is a bubble wrap carefully preserving the anti-matter (that Gorbunova coined). Alla Gorbunova is not at haste with sharing it, as it is too intimate. More intimate, probably, than she herself. She tells about her son, about her current experience, and it feels that she is more afraid of sharing those, than stories from her past, retold and repeated. Gorbunova probes the water with her little finger, offering us a sample of her intimate revelations, as she wants to make sure if the water is too cold for a substance that fine.


The material world is important. The transcendental can permeate things. Things can accumulate memory and time. They can speak and think. Sometimes I get to hear their thoughts. Strictly speaking, these are not thoughts in our habitual understanding, but a certain murmur, noise, movement, tension – something happening inside the matter, though nothing semantically meaningful. Things are restless on the inside.

— Alla Gorbunova

Book details

Elena Shubina Publishing (AST)

Short stories, 2021

221 pp

Rights sold

  • All rights available

Literary awards

  • Nominated for National Bestseller Prize 2020

  • Nominated for New Literature Award 2021

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