“A Withered Branch” by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is a story about a woman writer hitch-hiking across Russia and encountering kindness from another woman named, Jadviga. It’s short, only one and half pages, but it drives toward it’s ending in a way that seems obvious and forced. For me, the end feels too writerly. The metaphor is too neat. We start and finish with the image of “a withered branch.” We are even told that Jadviga is the withered branch. The reader need not work at anything; there is no need to infer. Like a hitchhiker, the reader tags along with the narrator as she passes through the terrain of her own loss. The tone is subdued, and at times, the writing feels stilted, which may be due to translation. Petrushevskaya creates a mood of loss and sadness that permeates the pages. It’s impressive for how short the story is. However, the ending causes the story to falter as it lights up like a neon sign along the road.
Leave a Reply