A: Aleksandr Vampilov Pf: 1976, Riga, Latvia Pb: 1970 Tr: 1980 G: Drama in 3 acts; Russian prose S: Zilov's apartment and other imagined locations, Russia, 1960s C: 6m, 3f, 1 child (m)While Zilov is waiting to go for his annual duck-hunting holiday with his friend Dima, a waiter, a funeral wreath is delivered, dedicated to Zilov from his friends. This shocking practical joke precipitates a series of flashbacks of his misspent life. He re-enacts the beginnings of married life, the deterioration of his marriage, his worsening alcoholism, his cruel treatment of his mistress, his encounter with and seduction of the innocent 18-year-old Irina, and fraud committed at work. His wife Galina becomes pregnant, but, uncertain that Zilov wants a child, has an abortion. He is so dismayed by this that he attacks her verbally and physically. She locks the door to prevent his getting at her, and Zilov, through the closed door, confesses his guilt and promises to make a fresh start – unaware that his wife has gone out and left him. When the fraud is discovered, Zilov almost loses his job. His father dies, but Zilov misses the funeral to be with Irina. His wife leaves him for good, as eventually does Irina. Back in the present, at a party to celebrate the start of the duck shooting, Zilov is so insulting to his friends that they plan to send him the wreath. When the wreath arrives, he sees himself for what he is – a living corpse – and attempts suicide but fails. He lies sobbing on his bed, but it is not clear whether he is laughing or crying. Eventually, he telephones Dima to say that he will join the duck shoot after all.
A: Aleksandr Vampilov Pf: 1976, Riga, Latvia Pb: 1970 Tr: 1980 G: Drama in 3 acts; Russian prose S: Zilov's apartment and other imagined locations, Russia, 1960s C: 6m, 3f, 1 child (m)
Vampilov is the most important Russian playwright of the second half of the 20th century, but has suffered from being thought of merely as a latter-day Chekhov. There are indeed strong similarities with Chekhov: the sense of wasted lives, the mixture of the comic and tragic, the understated emotional conflicts. But Vampilov has a strong contemporary voice that deserves to be better heard in the West.