Reviewed by Oksana Lushchevska, The Pennsylvania State University
In their novel, Time is Always Good (Vremia vsegda khoroshee), Andrei Zhvalevskii and Evgeniia Pasternak offer a representation of Soviet society in 1980 and a fictional foresight of Russia in 2018. By emphasizing the major characteristics of these two different years, Zhvalevskii and Pasternak focus on the daily life of two main characters, Olia Vorob’eva and Vitia Shevchenko.
Olia lives in Moscow in 2018 and her lifestyle is very similar to that of contemporary children. She goes to school, uses the computer, the Internet, and various chats for communication. However, technology replaces direct interaction with her classmates and other people. She knows her friends mostly by online nicknames but does not reveal them at school because the real and virtual worlds are always considered separate. Olia learns material for school using her computer, but has never memorized poetry or historical dates.
In contrast, Vitia lives in the Moscow of 1980. He is a good student, a devoted activist, and a true pioneer. He likes to read books, play games, and learn new things. Vitia’s life is based on family and friendship values. At the same time, Vitia needs to proclaim that his friend Zhenia, who accidentally brought a traditional Russian Easter cake (kulich) to school, is a betrayer of the Communist doctrine. Zhenia not only treats his classmates with kulich but also does not want to accept the idea that his grandmother uses religion as propaganda.
The mystery of the novel is set in motion by an accident that happens to Olia and Vitia: they unexpectedly fall into the other’s temporal dimension. Consequently, Olia gets involved in Zhenia’s case, and Vitia teaches Olia’s classmates to read books for pleasure and learn school material by heart. They both gain important life experience, which makes them appreciate what they have in their respective former lives. For example, from Zhenia’s grandmother Olia learns how to bake pastry and play with children outside instead of sitting by the computer all day. Moreover, she falls in love with Zhenia.
Vitia learns to like technological progress but feels really uncomfortable without paper books. Despite the new and interesting experience, Vitia keeps Zhenia’s trouble in mind. Their mutual concern about their common friend results in Vitia’s and Olia’s meeting in between their own times where they decide that they need to return to their respective temporal dimensions and their normal lives because Vitia knows how to save Zhenia with the help of his father’s friend.
Zhvalevskii’s and Pasternak’s characters are likable and realistic. Through thought and dialogue, the authors depict the cultural peculiarities of the different time periods. The authors pay attention to people’s appearance and dress code as well as the furnishing of their apartments. Zhvalevskii and Pasternak show that the image of a Soviet woman differs greatly from the image of a woman in 2018. Soviet women are usually dressed modestly, neatly, and comfortably. In contrast, women in 2018 are dressed according to the latest fashion. This novel is an engaging blend of history and modernity that will be accessible for a wide audience and will resonate with translators and researchers of Russian children’s literature.
Время всегда хорошее (Time is Always Good), by Andrei Zhvalevskii and Evgeniia Pasternak. Moscow: Vremia, 2011