Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The House on the Embankment is one of several thematically related works by Trifonov dealing with urban life, disappointments of middle age, grudges, and work and family problems. This group includes the three novellas collected in Dolgoe proshchanie (1973; The Long Goodbye: Three Novellas, 1978), comprising Obmen (1969; The Exchange, 1973), Prevaritalnye itogi (1970; Taking Stock, 1978), and the title piece, Dolgoe proshchanie (1971; The Long Goodbye, 1978); also in this group is the novella Drugaya zhizn (1975; Another Life, 1983). These works are part of the de-canonization of Socialist Realism, which is characterized by a self-sacrificing, positive hero, an omniscient narrator who views the action from the Olympian vantage point of “history,” and an inspirational theme in keeping with official ideology. The House on the Embankment may best be described as anti-Socialist Realism; it is marked by the most distinctive feature of Trifonov’s works, his concern with byt (the trivia of ordinary life), a preoccupation which in large part accounts for the popularity of his works in the Soviet Union. Trifonov’s early works include short stories and his first novel, Studenty (1950; Students, 1953), for which he won the Stalin Prize. His later novel Starik (1978; The Old Man, 1984), which some consider his masterpiece, continues the theme of confronting the past.