The Incredible Events in Women’s Cell Number 3 is the debut novel by Kira Yarmysh that follows a young woman, Anya, who is arrested at a Moscow anti-corruption rally, and, under false charges, sentenced to a ten-day stretch at a special detention center.
In a large barren room furnished only with communal bunkbeds, Anya meets her cellmates: five ordinary Russian women arrested on petty charges. They come from all strata and experiences of Russian society, and as they pass the long hours waiting to be released, they slowly build trust and companionship while sipping lukewarm tea from plastic cups and playing games. Above all, they talk: about politics, feminism, their families, their sexualities, and how to make the most of prison life. Yet as the waking days stretch listlessly before Anya, soon she is plagued by strange nightmarish visions and begins to wonder if her cellmates might not actually be as ordinary as they seem. Will the façade of everyday life ultimately crack for good?
A brilliant exploration of what it means to be marginalized both as an independent woman in general and in an increasingly intolerant Russia in particular, and a powerful prison story that renews a grand Russian tradition, The Incredible Events in Women’s Cell Number 3 introduces one of the most urgent and gripping new voices in international literature.
Praise for The Incredible Events in Women’s Cell Number 3:
Winner of a PEN Translates Award
Named a Most Anticipated Book by Literary Hub
“Brilliantly camouflaged by the grubby banality of casual conversation and detention routines, Ms. Yarmysh creates a cumulative portrait of ingrained social evils and violent retribution. I am pleased to say that the novel’s sudden unmasking as a work of Gothic terror caught me completely unawares. If Ms. Yarmysh has written a protest novel, after all, it’s as unpredictable as it is damning.”—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
“An intimate look at political imprisonment.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times
“A first novel that skillfully breaks the claustrophobia of life in a jail cell by cataloging Anya’s life before her imprisonment . . . The familiar trials and tribulations that everyday Russians face stand out in dramatic effect as Yarmysh illuminates the subtly veiled political dissent within an oppressive society straining at the seams.”—Booklist
“Yarmysh’s provocative debut offers a jaundiced view of life in a Russian detention center.”—Publishers Weekly
“Kira Yarmysh’s book is superb. I am happy that my past is being recognized: I myself sat in the cell next door (albeit at a different time), and I can confirm that all the characters are very realistic. It also explores the secret of what modern women think and want.”—Alexey Navalny
“Ten. Nine. Eight . . . The Incredible Events in Women’s Cell Number 3 counts down the ten-day detention of Anya, a Russian arrested after protesting her corrupt government. With every day that passes, our hearts pound faster, as the prisoners, their jailers, and Anya’s nightmares collide. Kira Yarmysh shows us the whole world through a single cell: frightening and funny, absurd and all too real.”—Julia Phillips, author of Disappearing Earth
“Kira Yarmysh can do more with a single detention cell than most writers can with an entire continent. In The Incredible Events in Women’s Cell Number 3, she updates and upends the traditions of the Russian prison novel, and in doing so, creates a startling panorama of contemporary Russian society. The result is required reading for anyone who wants to better understand life under Putin.”—Anthony Marra, author of Mercury Pictures Presents
“The Incredible Events in Women’s Cell Number 3 captures the absurdity of the Russian criminal justice system, but this gripping novel is more than an indictment of corruption. In Kira Yarmysh’s confident hands, Women’s Cell Number 3 becomes a vivid microcosm of contemporary Russia.”—Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them
“Centuries pass, generations change, but novels about prison and jail, freedom and captivity, are still being published in Russia. The Incredible Events in Women’s Cell Number 3 is as timely as Maxim Gorky’s Hours Spent in Prison, but a much livelier read!”—Boris Akunin, bestselling author of the Erast Fandorin series
“I almost fell into the trap of expectations and missed one of the year’s best novels. Kira Yarmysh’s novel is a striking text that reads simultaneously as a gripping story, a gorgeous gallery of humanity, a stirring tale of youth, and a sweeping and impressive metaphor for what is happening in Russia today . . . It’s just very, very cool. And whatever preconceptions you may have are probably wrong.”—Galina Yuzefovich, Russian literary critic
“Everything Yarmysh writes about is felt ardently, sincerely and truly . . . Yarmysh turns stories seemingly lifted from the news into an account that is at once very personal, deeply universal, captivating and genuinely timely.”—Meduza (Russia)
“Given all that Alexey Navalny has faced over the past decade, it is quite incredible that his press secretary Kira found the time to write a novel. At the center of the plot is Anya, who finds herself in custody for participating in an anti-corruption rally. But behind bars she encounters not crooks, thieves and murderers, but modern-day ‘Gulag prisoners.’”—GQ (Russia)
“A very cool prison novel . . . Really captivating.”—taz (Germany)
“Kira Yarmysh has succeeded in creating an empathetic, enraged yet often humorous portrait of Russian society.”—Deutsche Welle (Germany)
“Highly shocking . . . what remains is the hope that the power of this disturbingly current literary work carries it far outside of Russia.”—Tages-Anzeiger (Switzerland)
“Gives a nerve-racking glimpse into Russian prisons . . . We need to know more about our most distant neighbor. Yarmysh’s debut is a good place to start.”—Dagbladet (Norway)
“A clear reminder of how effective a tool fiction can be, how it can give the reader insight into what the world looks like from other points of view.”—Vinduet (Norway)