Book

Pieter Waterdrinker

The Death of Mila Burger

Yearning for happiness

Already in the Prologue to De dood van Mila Burger (The Death of Mila Burger), the author has told us that calamity is always lurking in the wings and strikes when one is not expecting it. When Mila is still a child, her grandfather is ground to death in a centrifuge when a drunken colleague turns the wrong handle.
Mila grows up with her grandmother in the Russian city of Kazan in the latter years of the Soviet era. After a dreary university period, she meets Dutchman Nico Burger and decides to follow him to his homeland.

But after ten years she finds herself in a windy coastal town, with a dead-end job in domiciliary care, no children and a disillusioned, unemployed husband who humiliates her.

One day, her old friend Asja turns up at her rental apartment. Asja tells Mila that she has apparently stolen the heart of an eccentric millionaire, Romanovski, who has seen a photo of her. When Mila takes up Romanovski’s invitation to go to Moscow, she enters a world that, in terms of decadence, has many similarities with the late 19th century tsarism, including duels, serfs and landaus. From his masterly descriptions of the excesses at parties and in clubs, it is clear that the author is familiar with both the glitz and the less glamorous underbelly of Moscow.

Romanovski and Mila prefer to retire to a fairytale-like estate in the forest, where a new feudal age seems to have dawned. While Romanovski works on a comprehensive book on the Lipizzaner breed of horse, Mila attempts to liberate herself from her former life in the Netherlands. Their happy, secluded existence forms a fine contrast with the uprooted nouveau riche in Moscow, who are constantly seeking ever-greater extravagances. Their contentment appears to be complete when Mila becomes pregnant, but Romanovski’s shady past increasingly becomes a threat to their happiness. Fate eventually strikes and Mila is forced to begin all over again.

De dood van Mila Burger reads as a captivating classical tragedy, full of lascivious scenes and sentences. Waterdrinker is a master narrator who leads his characters to their demise while again demonstrating the power of a good story.

In many respects De dood van Mila Burger is a novel about twenty-first-century Russia, dished up according to the laws of the nineteenth-century novel. Fluent, expressive, amusing.

NRC Handelsblad

De dood van Mila Burger is a classic tragedy. It is quality prose. Exuberant in a rather un-Dutch way.

Vrij Nederland

A marvellous novel. Grandiose and fascinating.

Het Parool

Translations

Pieter Waterdrinker

Pieter Waterdrinker (b. 1961) lives by turns in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. He has unparalleled knowledge of modern Russia, and his habitat always plays a principal role in his work. In 1998, he made his debut with the novel Danslessen (Dancing Lessons) which received immediate acclaim. This was…

lees meer

Details

De dood van Mila Burger (2010). Fiction, 398 pages.

Publisher

De Arbeiderspers

Spui 10
NL - 1012 WZ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 760 72 10

E-mail:
j.spooren@singeluitgeverijen.…
Website:
http://www.arbeiderspers.nl

lees meer