Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Olga Vasilievna

Olga Vasilievna (vah-see-LYEHV-nah), a recently widowed research biologist. After the early death of her husband, Sergei Afanasievich, she reconstructs by way of flashbacks their life together in an attempt to understand what went wrong and to assuage her guilt feelings about her husband’s demise. In the end, she realizes that she is not to blame, that their marriage was doomed to failure through forces beyond their control, and that they both unknowingly had yearned for a life other than their own, which eventually led to misunderstandings and the tragic end. Although she has many acquaintances and female friends, gets on well with people, and is not afraid of life’s complexities, she finds that she is psychologically overly dependent on other people and is therefore unable to attain happiness by living independently.

Sergei Afanasievich

Sergei Afanasievich (sehr-GAY ah-fah-NAH-syeh-vihch), Olga’s husband, a brilliant historian who dies prematurely at the age of forty-two without accomplishing much. Capricious and of unstable character, lacking dedication and willpower, and always in trouble at the institute where he works, he nevertheless knows how to make friends, especially among women, and ostensibly how to keep his marriage from falling apart. His main problem is a strong dependence on his mother’s opinion and moods; he is compelled to explain and justify himself to her. He adores his mother and stands in awe before her for “making history” during the Russian Revolution. Because of his subservience to his mother and his...

(The entire section is 691 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Trifonov usually draws his characters from the ranks of the Moscow intelligentsia, and Another Life is no exception to his general practice. He gives his Russian reader easily recognizable social types: the strong, motherly wife, the charming but undependable husband, the judgmental mother-in-law, the compromised artist.

Yet for all their familiarity, Trifonov’s characters are not two-dimensional, predictable players in a Soviet soap opera. Olga, the main character and single voice, may be naggingly protective and jealous both of her husband and of her place in his life, but she is neither mercenary nor careerist. Her own career is a given, something which need not be discussed; it neither excites nor depresses her. Her entire emotional and spiritual life is “their life.” Throughout the narrative she insists on the existence of their mutual life to such a degree that the reader realizes something must be radically wrong with this marriage. Sergei’s intellectual skitterings, on the other hand, arouse more sympathy and interest in the reader, but stop short of making him a real seeker after truth. His torment is real, but so is his frivolity. There is no easy formula of assigning praise or blame to either one; there is only an effort to find an honorable way of living from day to day.

Though he spends less time developing them, Trifonov hints that his secondary characters, too, are not so easily reducible to cliche. Alexandra...

(The entire section is 567 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Hosking, Geoffrey. Beyond Socialist Realism, 1980.

Kirkus Reviews. Review. LI (September 15, 1983), p. 1019.

Pankin, B. “A Circle or a Spiral? On Iurii Trifonov’s Novels,” in Soviet Studies in Literature. XIV (Fall, 1978), pp. 65-100.

Proffer, Ellendea. Introduction to The Long Goodbye, 1978.

Updike, John. Introduction to Another Life and The House on the Embankment, 1986.