Stalin is Dead

Stories and Aphorisms on Animals, Poets and Other Earthly Creatures

Rachel Shihor

Stalin is Dead

Rachel Shihor

Distributed for Sylph Editions

Translated by Ornan Rotem
With a Foreword by Nicole Krauss
96 pages | 4 3/4 x 8 1/2 | © 2013
Paper $18.00 ISBN: 9780956992086 Published November 2013 World sales rights except India
“Rachel Shihor is the opposite of a misty-eyed writer,” writes Mona Reiserer in the Quarterly Conversation. “Her writing penetrates to the truth of the aches and anxieties all people share, though they must generally suffer them alone.” “There is no question that she is a great writer,” Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love, confirms, “Only a master could make such originality feel inevitable. The only question is why so few people have had the chance to read her.”

In Stalin is Dead, Shihor offers a medley of aphorisms, flash fiction, and short stories, carving out a slice of the world in which Kafka would feel at home. The characters that inhabit this world—reckless she-goats, morose fish, somnambulistic theologians, poignant old ladies, dying dictators, and dead poets, to name just a few—have nothing in common save for the fact that they instruct us on the human condition. Available at last in Ornan Rotem’s translation, these edifying stories, with all their sadness and humor, are a writer’s tour de force and a reader’s delight.


A She-Goat and Seven Kids

Stalin is Dead

A Recollection

My Mother

The Nursery Teacher


The Retired Judge

The Tiniest Animal

The Royal Prince

The Future of Old Women

The Former Mayor’s Ancient Daughter

The Bridge

The Train

I Left a Bad Impression

Meanwhile in Ein Karem

Mr Zimmermann

Religions are a Curse

The Bus

The Dead


The Third Brother

The Tower of Babel


The Piano Tuner

The Fly

Two Flies

The Punished

The Concert

Rumour Had It

The Trusting Fish

A Fish Meets His Fate

My Forefathers


The Mouse Who Had an Operation

I Fell Ill and Then I Got Better


The Guest

The Next Steps

The Diary of an Employee

The National Poet and his Adversaries

The Trees

The Door

My Father

The Stranger

The Drawer That Got Stuck

Pascal’s Wager


Poets I

Poets II

Notes on the typograms

Review Quotes
Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love
“There is no question that Rachel Shihor is a great writer."
“Rachel Shihor refuses to shy away from hard truths, but there is still an unmistakable warmth in the way she treats her subjects. Her characters are not innocent (one of them is Stalin after all); on the contrary, they are subtly tainted and damaged by the mere fact of being human, of belonging to a species with a proven capacity for violence and injustice. Yet Shihor’s deep understanding of humanity’s weakness and cruelty does not overwhelm her portrait; instead it adds an additional dimension of authority to the candid, unsentimental fairness of her approach. . . . One gets the sense of a writer who observes life with clear, wakeful eyes, and who never averts them, no matter how distressing the things they see.”
Music and Literature
“Stalin Is Dead is a marvelous showcase for Shihor, who packs more prescience and incisiveness into her tiny pages than most writers would be lucky to conjure up in a doorstop-sized novel. . . . And it’s not only this style itself but the privileged position which Shihor affords it that, in a sea of deft character studies and neat turns of phrase, makes our immersion in her writing feel so worthwhile.”
Tom Sperlinger | Times Literary Supplement
“Shihor’s slim book presents us with an extraordinary cast of characters. . . . The imaginative landscape of the stories evokes a vanished Europe, rather than the contemporary Middle East, and the book is haunted by images of exile. . . . Shihor’s characters are survivors of a nightmare world, and they live with the dread of losing everything again.”
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