The Piano-Tuner – Victor Kolupaev (1972)

Piano - Maria Blanchard
The Pianist – Maria Blanchard (1919)

The Piano-Tuner (Настройщик Роялей) was the first short story I ever read in the Russian language and so it feels like a good way to start this blog. Since reading it, I can’t say my Russian has improved greatly, so I’m asking your patience with my reviews! With that disclaimer made, let’s turn to the work.

The story itself comes from the pen of an often overlooked sci-fi author in the Soviet Union, namely Victor Dmitrievich Kolupaev (Виктор Дмитриевич Колупаев). Born in Nezametny, Yakutia in the Russian Far East in 1936, Kolupaev studied radiotechnics at Tomsk Polytechnic University before debuting with his first science fiction story in 1969. He would later go on to win the Aelita Prize in 1988. (The Aelita Prize, being of course, the top prize for Science Fiction or Fantasy writing in the Soviet Union, more on that in a later post!)

The Piano-Tuner is a short and simple story appropriate for this short and simple initial post. It follows an elderly man making his way through an apartment bloc re-tuning the instruments of the residents. As he observes the domestic affairs of each apartment, and deduces the real needs and desires of the families there, it transpires that the piano-tuner fixes more than just pianos. Whether it’s a boisterous family or a mother striving to outdo the neighbours, the piano-tuner knows his craft.

A charming read, I would recommend The Piano-Tuner for anyone looking to delve into Kolupaev’s works or Soviet sci-fi generally, but doesn’t have the time (or the patience!) to tackle a longer work.


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