Self Portrait With an Oyster in the Pocket

Roman Shmarakov
256 pages;

The novel by Roman Shmarakov — a philologist and a Latinist — is an example of a subtle literary game in which the reader is offered several roles at once. In addition to the traditional one, when you need to follow the plot and admire the style and language of the author, these are the roles of an insightful detective (after all, any murder must be solved), a connoisseur of good English-style humor (and who does not like Jeeves and Wooster?), a lover of stories from Decameron and the symbolism of Baroque painting. In the interweaving of storylines one can find more than just a novel — it is a multi-layered picture, where every angle gives a new perspective.

A young lady was murdered in an English estate. And not only she, according to the police inspector, but also the parrot found dead was also intentionally killed. And while the inspector is looking for the murderer of the lady and the parrot, the inhabitants of the house — all turned out to be suspects — are judging in different ways about the causes of the murder, and an old picture with a shepherdess and a wolf is looking at them attentively.

Something however makes the novel even more amazing — it is built according to the laws of ... a play.

Shmarakov actually did a fantastic thing: he took the story canon of the English detective a la Agatha Christie and imposed it on a theatrical play. All the action takes place in the same room, the characters enter and exit through the doors, and we learn about events outside the room from what they tell. Five chapters correspond to five dramatic acts. There are also sideshows — played by the characters of the story painted on the canvas.

To alert fans of detective stories — no foolish tricks: despite all the whimsical turns and retreats, a real investigation will be carried out in the novel, the evidence will be brought together and the criminal will be found. However, the end is followed by a postscript — an unexpectedly sad final dialogue between the painted shepherdess and the wolf — in which the story of the hoax in painting turns into a piercing statement about the transience of being and that it all ends with death anyway ...

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