M. G. Lord - New York Times Book Review
A deft, economical portrait of an engaging set of characters whose behavior, though occasionally screwball, is never one-dimensional . . . Riotously funny—a quirky, tender story . . .
The oddly matched protagonists in this award-winning Russian author's lively American debut are connected through their love for the artist Alik, a Russian migr keeling merrily toward death. Alik's loved ones gather at his cramped, stiflingly hot downtown Manhattan apartment, each trying to reconcile their memories with their moral obligations to the dying man. His neurotic wife, Nina, is desperate for Alik to be baptized; Maika, the 15-year-old daughter of his ex-lover, Irina, is upset that no one understands Alik's jokes now that the man is sick.Ulitskaya uses the loved ones' varying emigration experiences to underscore their attempts to respect one another's places in Alik's life and at his deathbed. One friend, for example, cannot get his impressive medical credentials certified in the U.S., while another not only passed his exams in record time but took advantage of advances in Western technology and found work in a cutting-edge field of medicine--still, both live in poverty. Irina, a former circus acrobat, performed at night for "rich idiots," using her earnings to graduate from law school, while Nina, a former model, now finds nothing for herself to do in the U.S. besides tend to Alik and drink. Ulitskaya is adept at capturing the subtle nuances of thought and experience, expressing both human spirit and flaws without false sentimentality. Her characters are fully realized, rendered in extraordinary detail. (Jan. 17) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Beautiful, lyrical prose is the hallmark of this novel, which relates Alik's last days, spent in his stifling New York apartment. Like most of his friends, Alik is a Russian migr who loves America. To him, everyday life on the street is "living theater," and the subway system is a masterpiece. Opinions on love, religion, life, death, and homeland vs. exile flow among his friends, wife, and lovers, who always gather at his apartment. Alik is a charismatic, well-liked artist who is dying of a mysterious disease that makes his muscles useless. His death is peaceful, and the funeral is cathartic for all who attend. Russian author Ulitskaya (Sonechka and Other Stories) lives in Moscow but spends a good deal of time in New York City. Her short, eloquent novel is recommended for all larger libraries.--Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Richard Bernstein - New York Times
They are quirky figures, an earthy pick from a spicy crop, and they provide the stuff of Ms. Ulitskaya's smart and prickly book, one with echoes of Isaac Babel and Isaac Bashevis Singer and perhaps a dose of Samuel Beckett as well. They are all absurd in their different fashions, and they meet their own worst enemies (themselves) in ways that give them a tragicomic energy. In this sense Ms. Ulitskaya brings a new sensibility to American letters. She has a caustic, penetrating outsider's vision of the American life in which she places her alien creatures... Ms. Ulitskaya is a bright and trenchant voice that has given the familiar story of 20th-century displacement a new and memorable form.
New York Times“A smart and prickly book which echoes Isaac Bashevis Singer and perhaps a dose of Samuel Beckett as well...” – New York Times In a sweltering Manhattan apartment, a group of Russian immigrants attends the deathbed of a charismatic artist named Alik. They pass the time reminiscing about their love of him, replaying old rivalries, drinking vodka, and trying to get reports from CNN about the upheaval in their homeland. His premature wake is a microcosm of the immigrant experience and a lively and sensitive portrayal of the Russian soul. Devastatingly keen in its observation of character, The Funeral Party introduces a writer who captures, wryly and tenderly, our complex thoughts and emotions about life and death, love and loss, homeland and exile. LUDMILA ULISKAYA’s noves and Short Stories have been published in Russia, France, Germany and elsewhere.
Philadelphia Inquirer “Quickly paced, quirkily observed, full of delicate surprises”
New York Times Book Review
“It reminds me of the early novels of Evelyn Waugh... (A) riotously funny, quirky, and tender story whose themes of love, loss, and identity soar over the boundaries of language and geography”.
Los Angeles Times“In America, we have friends, family, lovers , and parents – four kinds of love. Could it really be that in Russia they have more. Ulitskaya makes it seem so.”
The New Yorker“With quiet humor and a keen ear for emotional nuance, Ulitskaya dips in and out of their characters thoughts, recording how death intrudes upon life, how the past clings to the present, and how the old world perpetually haunts the new”