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Ings & Oughts


A testament to the powers of the imagination from one of Russia’s best contemporary writers, The Lives of Monsters and Other Stories is an uncanny masterpiece with echoes of Dante, Beckett, and Borges.

Grouped according to themes of romance, philosophy, fate, fantasy and fable, Gorbunova’s debut collection of stories takes a jaundiced view of the world, turning a magical lens on all-too-familiar problems. There is the woman who is horrified to discover that her husband doesn’t have a soul and the university professor who unwittingly wanders through a post-Soviet hell. Violence and romance hound the employees at a sun-bleached country market, and myth meets modernity when Scylla and Charybdis run into dating woes.

Not since Calvino has a writer twisted the art of the fairy tale to create as stunning a catalogue of miracles and horrors. Gorbunova’s stories are filled with ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, as well as extraordinary people caught up in daily mundanity. Long turning the heads of Russian audiences with her wild and wonderful award-winning poetry, Gorbunova turns here to playful explorations of philosophical concerns about life, being, and meaning, combining clever satire and shocking flights of fancy into an imaginative menagerie all her own. Ings and Oughts is sure to put one of Russia’s youngest and most brilliant literary stars onto the international stage.

Ings and Oughts is my first book of prose. I believe it has some drive and compassion. I wanted to name it Tales For Nutties, then came about with To Ashes, and then came the final title, Ings & Oughts. Yet Tales for Nutties is an important part of the text and it defines its audience, too. To Ashes is the name of the story about a man walking in sunglasses in winter because he did not want to see the world to its ashes, by watching and burning it to ashes by the act of viewing. So now I told you about two secret planes of my book, and now you are to decide what is “ings” and “oughts” here.

Alla Gorbunova

Book details

Limbus Press

Elena Shubina Publishing (AST)

Short stories, 2017, 2023


Rights sold

  • World English Deep Vellum

  • Bulgarian Scalino

  • Italian Lieto Colle

Literary awards

  • Nominated for the National Bestseller Prize 2018

  • Shortlisted for the New Literature Award 2018

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