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.