The Lost Button by Irene Rozdobudko

by Irene Rozdobudko
translated by Michael M. Naydan
published by Glagoslav Publications, UK, 2012
181 pages
I have an enormous passion for Russian literature, much like the one I hold for Japanese. And so it was with great pleasure that I accepted some contemporary Russian Ukrainian novels, published by Glagoslav Publications, for review. The book you see pictured above is the first I’ve read, and it is a mysterious, ethereal love story. It is also a search for meaning, and one’s place in the world, which are a few of my favorite themes. Here is a blurb from the back cover, which gives you a rather succinct idea of what to expect from this novel:
The taut psychological thriller The Lost Button keeps the reader transfixed. It received first place in the Coronation of the Word competition in 2005 and subsequently was made into a feature film. The novel tells the story of young student scriptwriter’s encounter with a mysterious, femme fatale actress named Liza at a vacation resort in the Carpathian Mountains in Soviet Ukraine in the 1970s. Unable to let go of his love after getting lost with her in the woods for one beautiful night, the young man’s fascination with the actress turns into an obsessions that changes his life dramatically.
Great happiness or great tragedy can begin from the smallest detail, from a button, that is so easy to lose, but for which you can search your entire life. The Lost Button, a drama that ranges in geography from Central Europe to the United States of America, is a novel about love, devotion, and betrayal. It is about not looking back, but always valuing what you have – today and forever.
As I read this novel, slowly and carefully, I found myself marking wonderful quotes in the margins. I’ll leave you with a few of them below:
~”I studied the requisite five years. I won’t say that I forgot her and didn’t look for her. I looked. Til the time when I came to the conclusion: in the end, everyone aspires for just one thing – love, saying it in a different way – recognition. This searching can lead you just about anywhere – to terrorism, feminism, fascism, just anywhere. Whoever doesn’t want to disappear into oblivion, but who doesn’t have any talent, strives in any way to make himself be known. If Hitler had been recognized as a real artist, if Josef Dzhugashvilli (Joseph Stalin) hadn’t been thrown out of the seminary, would they have wanted to prove to the world that they exist in such a horrific way? ” (p. 59)
~”Everyone in this life bears his cross,” the old woman said, “The more mistakes you make, the heavier the cross becomes. And yours, my child, is really small. Bear it, endure, and have faith…” (p. 160)
~”It was still dark outside. The icy fog wreathed like milk before me. I walked five or six meters and turned around: there was nothing behind me. There was no grandmother, no orchard, no house there – everything dissolved in the white haze…I felt sharp pain in my heart for the first time in several months. I realized: life has no taste, in its pure form it’s like distilled water. We add salt, pepper, or sugar to it ourselves. When life acquires taste – your heart hurts more.” (p. 160)
~”Sooner or later, people who don’t feel any love turn into a zombie, into amorphous nothingness, they are not satisfied with life no matter how good it is.” (p. 165)
This book is remarkable for what it has to say about love. It encompasses the way we love as humans, selfishly and selflessly, and in so doing make the object of our affection an idol. Or, a ghost of who they really are. This is a tremendously creative, and thought provoking novel, one which I savored throughout the weekend.

14 thoughts on “The Lost Button by Irene Rozdobudko”

  1. Oh, this book sounds lovely (and the cover is gorgeous, too). Thanks for putting it on my radar.

    I'd actually once started writing a story of my own with this very title (the coat button my mother carried with her through Siberia in WWII and lost only just a few years ago), but fortunately this novel sounds like it has a completely different story to tell, so it's not direct competition for me. 🙂


  2. This sounds wonderful, rather an epic even if the love is lost. I can see why you liked it, the themes you mention tend to leave a lot of room for discussion.


  3. Bellezza, this sounds so good. I've only ever heard about the classics when it comes to Russian lit, so I'm glad you are mentioned the contemporary books. Great post! And, I love the passages you included 😉


  4. Sounds like a deep, quality read. I haven't read any contemporary Russian lit., thanks for letting me have a glimpse of what it's like. I suppose an interesting contrast to Anna Karenina (?) Also, I notice that your header pic is the same painting on the cover of the Penguin edition of Henry James's novel What Maisie Knew. Can you tell me its name and the painter? Coincidentally, it's one of the films coming out this fall based on literature.


  5. Arti, it is quite different from Anna Karenina, and surprisingly enough almost reminds me of something Murakami might have written because of a few almost surreal qualities.

    As for the painting in my header, it's called Alice in Wonderland. It was painted in 1879 by Leslie George Dunlop, and I was quite taken with it as school began and it created such a lovely image of student/teacher or more likely mother/child. Anyway, I love it.


  6. I skimmed your review a bit because I haven't written mine, yet, but I also really enjoyed this book. The beginning, when it was all about obsession, I found a bit tedious. But, it became more absorbing when it switched from Denys' obsession to a touch of mystery and his realization of what he'd lost. In the end, I had to finish the book once I reached about the halfway point and didn't get much sleep, that night!


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