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Ulitskaya's new collection was subtitled by the author as 'borderline' short stories. In all cultures and religions, the very concept of borderline, of boundary, of some kind of restriction is inherent for one's consciousness and life experience. Over a lifetime, people constantly deal with multiple limitations, internal or external, real or imagined. These boundaries can “expand”, “be effaced”, “crossed”, “demand respect”, some of them we set for ourselves, and others are set by states, societies, or traditions. It is philosophical and humanistic interpretation of this concept that Ulitskaya writes about in her book.
The book feature two cycles of short stories. In the first one, My Lady-Friends, the key motive of Ulitskaya's narrative is love, perhaps the only device capable of effacing any boundaries between people. Protagonists of these stories recover missing part of their soul and gain strength necessary for life with a help of love manifesting itself in different forms and shapes: physical love, maternal love, late love, unexpected love, adoration, allegiance, sympathy, affection...
In the second cycle, On The Body Of The Soul, Ulitskaya approaches the innermost boundary - the boundary of life, or rather of physical existence of our bodies. Is there a line dividing life and death? Or is death the limit of life? And what is there, beyond our physical existence? Ulitskaya's protagonists are caught in those crucial moments of their lives when physical and metaphysical is almost inseparable.
We know much more about human body than about the soul. Indeed, no one can draw up a map of the soul. All we can is just somehow catch, to glimpse into a boundary strip, into that zone separating existence and non-existence. There, near the border as we approach it, such vibrations begin, such subtle details are revealed that it is almost impossible to give them a wording in our beautiful, but limited language. A risky, very dangerous approach. Still, that space attracts to itself the further you live, the stronger. -- Ludmila Ulitskaya