Я родилась и выросла в Ташкенте в семье потомственных журналистов и сотрудников похоронного бюро. Это и определило то, о чем я пишу – короткие юмористические истории о жизни на кладбище. Сейчас я живу и работаю в Лондоне.
Nilufar Sharipova, author of You’ve Got Grave Issues, was born in a country that’s no longer on the map—the Soviet Union—into a family of journalists and cemetery workers. This odd combination is largely responsible for determining Sharipova’s subject matter: short humorous tales about the life and times of a typical cemetery in the Soviet and early post-Soviet period. Today Nilufar lives in London, where she is a consultant.
Short stories “You’ve Got Grave Issues”
You’ve Got Grave Issues is a collection of short, often humorous stories about a cemetery. These twenty tales portray people who came to regard the cemetery as a wonderful place to work; as home; as a source of inspiration; as a way to earn an honest–or dishonest–paycheck; and as a stage, upon which dramas left unfinished in life can finally unfold. Among the characters we find a principled journalist who finds freedom begging at the cemetery gates; an accomplished scientist whose true calling is service to God; an enterprising fortune-teller who uses gravestones in her rituals for the matrimonially inclined; a devoted daughter who continues an ongoing dialogue with her departed mother; and more. The events described take place in the Soviet and early post-Soviet period.
A zealous young inspector is convinced that the cemetery staff is corrupt. He decides to take up the gravedigger’s shovel himself, to penetrate the secret circle of collusion. He’s warned to beware horrifying visits from the cemetery ghost, Flop-Ear, but it’s a completely different kind of ordeal that awaits him.
A young journalist and stalwart Hegelian only achieves complete freedom once he’s become a bum, begging at the cemetery wall. But can his free spirit withstand the test of love?
Father Makar is the most sought-after priest in the cemetery church. It just so happened that before beginning his life of religious service, he’d also been a physics professor at Cambridge, a fact that has a curious effect on a former Communist Party functionary.
Roses for Rose
Every day, Rose Sandikova, the new employee of the cemetery’s flower shop, gets a bouquet of roses from a secret admirer. One fine day, Rose disappears. The shop manager, fearing the secret admirer was really a maniac of some kind, calls the police. Their investigation reveals another story.
The Man You’ll Marry
Miss Charodey, a clairvoyant and small-business owner, guarantees that any young lady who completes her proprietary ritual among the cemetery gravestones will find a good husband. One young hopeful, overwhelmed by the strong impressions the cemetery and its staff have made on her, is unable to complete the ritual, but may have just found some excellent husband material nonetheless…
Arkady, a struggling writer, realizes that he needs a fresh source of inspiration and ideas. So he gets a job at the cemetery. Captivated by an unusual funeral procession for one TosyaIvanova, he starts visiting the young decedent’s grave, where he becomes jealous of her other young male mourners. But eventually he discovers Tosya’s true identity.
Suddenly, Happiness Came Knocking
Bella Nemirovskaya can’t break off relations with her recently-departed mother. She comes to the cemetery every day to stand by the tidy little plot, talking, debating, and arguing with her mother. But one day, her mother prevails on her to talk to someone else.
God’s Price List
In Soviet times, Armen Gasparov made good money filling a need for deficit goods. He sewed jeans. But after perestroika and a sudden surplus of jeans, he was no longer needed. So he started selling something else that was in short supply: God.
The desperate robber who attacks Father Ioann is actually a young stripper who needs the money to open her own nightclub to support her family. The priest has to think fast to keep himself, his dignity, and the church coffers intact.
The new lady boss of the headstone-carving shop has a tough task ahead of her: winning the respect of her all-male employees, while also putting a stop to the epic drinking bouts with which they fill the slow winter months. She convinces them to make big batches of picked cabbage to sell, instead: both easy and lucrative. Her plan works perfectly, until she’s out sick for a few days, when it backfires.
“Now then, sonny, when should I come for the fitting?” asked the granny, tugging like a toddler at the hem of Gusin’s shop coat.
“Come in four weeks, grandmother, that’s May 25th. Got it? Maybe you want to write it down?” Aleksey Gusin, carpenter first class, felt bad for Granny Nina.
“But that’s such a long time! I might not live that long.” Touchingly, she clutched her ever-present string bag to her chest.
“What’s got you in such a rush, grandma? Itching to push up the daisies? You’ll live that long, and then some, my dear. Look how strong you are. But I have a long waiting list of dead folks. I have to make them their coffins first. And I’m just doing this for you as a special favor, anyway. It’s against the law to make a coffin for someone who’s still alive.” The craftsman wrote a note in his order book and reached over to get his plane.
“I know all that, now, don’t I? And I am alive… today. But what about tomorrow? Who’ll take care of me when I go? The only person I have in the whole wide world is a nephew, and he’s all the way over on the other side of the country. So see, I have to do it myself. In advance,” cajoled the grandmother, lifting her head and trying to catch the carpenter’s attention.
He sighed. “Aw, granny, you’re breaking my heart. Fine. Come on May 18th. I just can’t do it any earlier.” Gusin spread his hands wide in desperation.
“Oh, thank you, sonny! Thank you!” she cried, and quickly gathered her things to go, before he could change his mind.
On May 18th, the grandmother was at the door at eight o’clock on the dot. “I’m here for the fitting, sonny!” She was radiant with joy.
“Granny Nina, is that you? I didn’t recognize you! How’d you get so broad in the beam?!” Alexey couldn’t believe his eyes.
“My nephew came to visit! He brought me all kinds of goodies… sugar cookies, gingersnaps, chocolates… and that… what’s it called… pa… pak-something. Paklava. Paklava! Lord have mercy, what a word! It sure tastes good, but you can’t say it without warming up first!” Granny Nina fanned herself. “So? Is my order ready?”
“It’s ready, grandmother. Look!” Gusin lovingly ran his hand along the pine-wood coffin. “Top-notch work.”
With an agility belying her years, Nina climbed up onto the table and lay down in the coffin. Then Gusin heard her muffled voice from inside it: “Oh, it’s a little tight, here on the sides.”
“Yes, well, your dimensions were different three weeks ago, granny. Look at you now! Everyone in the whole country is complaining their pensions are too small, there’s no money, but you—how’d you pile on all those extra kilograms? Granny Nina! This isn’t a dress you’re trying on, you know!” He gazed reproachfully at her.
“Well I don’t know, Aleksey, maybe you could re-do it?” Clearly the carpenter’s arguments hadn’t convinced her. “What if I die tomorrow before I’ve had a chance to go on a diet? How would I look then?”
“You’re not dying anytime soon. You were talking that way last time, too, but here we are three weeks later, and you’re alive and well, and better than ever. Make that bigger than ever! I’m not re-doing a thing!” Gusin flared.