Although he was born in Watertown and continues to live in southeast Wisconsin, Mishka Zakharin often migrates in his thoughts thousands of miles to the east. “I feel I have a Russian soul,” he says, and his spiritual and intellectual wandering has resulted in a collection of short stories, poetry and playwriting called The Green Lamp. Recently released through TrIndie Publishing, the book takes its title from the name of the prominent 19th-century Russian literary journal associated with Pushkin and other towering writers.
“The common theme is Russian-oriented,” Zakharin says, and a glance at the titles within The Green Lamp bears him out. The one-act play Chekhov’s Pony shares space with the cheekily titled novella Dostoyevsky for Children: Crime & Punishment.
“Dostoyevsky is so dark, dealing with criminals and the lowest levels of society,” Zakharin explains. “I thought: Wouldn’t it be ironic writing those adult themes for children? Instead of drunkenness, the characters spin in circles until they’re dizzy. Instead of murder, people are put in a box. But despite the title, I wouldn’t recommend the story for children.”
Zakharin recaptures the style of 19th-century Russian literature while adding a level of contemporary humor. Of course, any writer enamored of Russia will want to try his hand at a novel. Zakharin’s work in progress, Time of Troubles, transposes themes from Hamlet and Macbeth to the turbulent setting of Medieval Russia. “Russians are a people of extremes—passionate yet spiritual—and can go from one extreme to another,” making them profoundly interesting as characters in stories, wherever they happen to be written.
Mishka Zakharin will sign copies of The Green Lamp Saturday, Feb. 4, 1-3 p.m. at The Book Store, 208 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. May 5 at Book World, 300 E. Main St., Watertown.