>The New Yorker: "Luda and Milena" by Lara Vapnyar

>Luda and Milena (both diminutives for Ludmila) are Russian immigrants in an ESL class in New York. They are different, but the same, and both are vying for the attention of Aron, another student in the class. The teacher introduces the idea of an International Feast each Friday to give the class something to discuss, and it becomes a competition between Luda and Milena, each with their supporters, but with Aron as the prize. Except that he’s probably no prize.

“No matter who won, come Monday all of Friday’s intimacy was gone. On Mondays, Aron never gave any sign that he had formed a connection with either of them, never spoke to them before or after class, hardly even looked at them. There was no indication hat he wanted either of them, or that he ever would.”

Perfect. But that doesn’t stop them. This story is a good example of introducing tension simply by creating a triangle, but the cooking competition between the two women makes it even better. The author has rendered these women well, with wonderful details. I confess that I had a little trouble keeping straight in my mind which was which – which had had the career and the family, which the lover – but it doesn’t matter much in the end because they aren’t that much different. This is a good one. (Oh, and since the issue it’s in is the “Food Issue,” it’s particularly appropriate.)

September 3 & 10, 2007: “Luda and Milena” by Lara Vapnyar

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