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The Women of Lazarus


Bestselling title

Over 200,000 original copies sold

Complete English, German and French translations available

After the success of her debut novel The Surgeon (2005), which gained her the nomination for the National Bestseller Prize and enthusiastic critical acclaim, Marina Stepnova returns with a mesmerizing story of love, loss and human genius.

Marusia and Sergei Chaldonov are indeed blessed in their marriage. He – a respectable scientist with a bright academic career ahead, despite the revolutionary turmoil in Russia at dawn of the 20th century; she – a beautiful, kind, and intelligent wife. Their complete happiness is marred by one thing only: the couple is childless. After the first years of disappointment and doubt, Marusia makes a deal with God, the terms of which she never reveals to her husband. And in 1918, when Marusia is 49 years old, a child is bestowed on the couple. This child is Lazarus Lindt: 18-year-old self-educated maverick, true genius and a peer of the troubled century.

Lazar, too, loves Marusia, and with a passion that is different from filial love. The offspring of a poor Jewish family of which nothing is known besides their name, the prodigy Lazarus Lindt becomes Sergei Chaldonov’s brightest pupil, his follower, and in no time outdoes his champion. An easy winner in all fields of science, Lazar fails to accomplish what he wants most. Marusia will never know about the true nature of Lazarus’s feelings – not when he, already an acclaimed physicist and head of a promising line in nuclear physics, follows the Chaldonovs to Ansk during the evacuation and stays in the provincial town when Marusia decides against returning to Moscow after the war; not when the jouir and bon vivant refuses to introduce Marusia to any of his numerous lovers; not even when Lazarus takes his chances and articulates his feelings at Sergei Chaldonov’s anniversary. Marusia’s open-hearted and easy response – “I love you too” – leaves no hope for Lazarus.

Lindt gets love-struck for the second time in his life years after Marusia’s quiet and peaceful death. Galina – all peaches and cream, an exceptionally beautiful 18-year-old assistant at a Department of Chemistry in the Ansk Engineering Institute of Water Supply – plans her happy and simple family life with a postgraduate student, when her future knocks on the door of the Department in the guise of the Institute’s guest lecturer, living classic of the physical sciences and father of the Soviet atomic bomb, Lazarus Lindt. Galina responds to Lazarus’ passion with virulent hatred unto death, with the stubbornness of a simple and shallow nature. She will never love anyone else, not even her son, who commits suicide after a fatal accident befalls his wife, leaving their 5-year-old daughter Lida an orphan.

The lovely tomboy Lida soon learns to endure pain, living through the spiteful indifference of her grandmother Galina, the physical strains of ballet school, and the despair of unrequited first love. Lida is yet to discover that sometimes you have to go to the farthest ends of the earth and even to die to find your love – and your home.

Marina Stepnova has depicted the country’s 20th century on a broad canvas, permeating it with rhyming fates, echoes of feelings, and the tiniest movements of the human soul. The author’s unprecedented literary command enables the reader to marvel and wonder at new meanings underlying the most basic notions of family, home, happiness, and love.

This is a beautifully written novel with finely observed characters. A masterpiece.

— Novaya Gazeta

From the bomb-making scientist in a secret city called Ensk to starving, smoking teenage dancers, filling each other’s pointe shoes with ground glass, The Women of Lazarus flirts with Russia’s enduring clichés even as it constructs a profound and powerful tale about human interaction. 

— Russia Beyond the Headlines

The Women of Lazarus has all the makings of being this season’s Great Novel. We are talking great tragedy, violently burning love and deep psychological portraits, just like in the classical Russian novels.

— Allehanda

Marina Stepnova’s The Women of Lazarus is one of “those” books: in this case, “those” books are the ones that compel me just a touch more than they repel me. Oddly, for this reader, “those” books have a tendency to be novels where form and content are absolutely inseparable (a big plus) and books that inexplicably leave me with painfully unforgettable scenes and atmospheres (an even bigger plus).

— Lizok’s Bookshelf

Marina Stepnova unfolds an intoxicating tale with sensibility and humour.

— Culturopoing

Book details

Elena Shubina Publishing (AST)

Novel, 2011

444 pp

Rights sold

  • World English World Editions (available)

  • Dutch DeGeus

  • German btb (available)

  • French Les Escales (available)

  • Italian Voland

  • Swedish 2244 (available)

  • Norwegian Agora (available)

  • Estonian Tänapäev

  • Hungarian Európa Publishers

  • Lithuanian Tyto Alba

  • Polish Czarna Owca

  • Latvian Janis Roze

  • Serbian Agora

  • Bulgarian Prozoretz

  • Czech Euromedia

  • Romanian Curtea Veche

  • Albanian Fan Noli

  • Macedonian Antolog

  • Croatian Naklada Ljevak

  • Armenian Vogi Nairi

  • Greek Livanist

  • Slovenian Forum

  • Arabic AS Publishers

  • Simplified Chinese Ginkgo Book (Shanghai)

Literary awards

  • Double winner of Big Book Award 2012 (3rd prize from readers and the jury)

  •  Finalist of the National Bestseller 2012

  • Finalist of Russian Booker Award 2012 

  • Shortlisted for Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award 2012

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