Maria Pankevich. Hormone of Happiness

Author: Maria Pankevich
Title: Hormone of Happiness
Year: 2015

A temporary detention facility is not only Hell’s branch on Earth but also a place where, just like in the classic “walk into a bar” joke, all sorts of characters come together. These are the people that under different circumstances would never stood a chance of a close encounter. A woman’s “lock-up” is a special case. For the first time in Russian, if not world literature, a book tells about the prison as if it was an entity/ domain of a feminine gender. The reader of this truly spooky and at the same time incredibly funny collection of stories, is facing a whole gallery of portraits – the business-lady and the junkie, the old woman and the juvenile girl – every one of them with a lore that is kind of familiar, and yet so distinct from all others. The book’s protagonist also reveals a story of her own– a tale of the reckless youth and a heart-skips-a-beat kind of love.
Isolation Cell (introduction).

“It’s 6 AM. The strip lights on the ceiling are coming on. Wearing nightgowns that reach the floor, hunched female figures of unidentifiable age emerge from the morning’s stuffy semi-darkness. Some are racing to the wooden benches – to claim a spot near the toilet behind the curtain. The others reluctantly make their beds. The most skittish ones are already on the upper bunks – puffing smokes into the ventilation panes, starring blankly at the streetlights, snow, tiny tree, and an old red brick building across. They’re remembering their dreams. To see a Church always means a [soon] release, says the Gypsy woman; she is being shushed. The TV set’s mumbling reports and gossips, all useless now. The tobacco smoke is eating up the eyes. Warm tea, unsweetened cornmeal porridge is set on the tables. Absolute loneliness. A humming noise – it happens, when twenty-two people trying to speak quietly”.