The style here is richly but delicately lyric, a web of resonating filaments. The risk of such writing is tenuousness, a failure to grasp the reader’s mind tightly enough to make a deep impression. But Berdeshevsky’s muscularity of observation and precision of detail override the risk. One brief example of that precision: two women in “Le Serveur” stroll “with a turquoise shared umbrella” – why those adjectives in that order? Wouldn’t we usually say “a shared turquoise umbrella”? But no, this isn’t a colorful umbrella, it’s a shared umbrella, made real by its color. The order is accurate.
For some readers such perspective might seem a liability, as if only male writers are allowed a gender-oriented sensibility, as if a profound exploration of feminine experience belongs to a lesser literature. I remember a friend’s poetry workshop experience some years back in which the much-laurelled male poet running the show derided her poem about her mother’s death as too limited in subject matter, while extolling a male student’s verse about the shock of his first awareness of his father’s penis as “universal.” It’s time we got this straight. Women who write about women are no more parochial than men who write about men. Moby-Dick is about all of us; so is powerful work in which the perspective and characters are female. Some important knowledge is – or ought to be – just plain unisex. Berdeshevsky offers such important knowledge to anyone who will take it.