They call her Alice of Wonderland – some out of great respect, some out of blatant contempt. She is a makeup-free geek donning a hipster check shirt, unisex jeans, outrageous green shoes and love beads. She writes sophisticated poems and wears a knapsack richly embellished with pendant ornaments and badges. A Salinger fan, she is a talented English language teacher adored by her students and hated by her colleagues. She is a legal alien within the walls of an ordinary Ukrainian university, which, unlike Carroll’s world, suppresses those violating its absurd rules.
Alice has a choice to be either the disrupter or the disrupted. Who are her adversaries-peers? Laboratory assistant Darling Svitlana – a woman who wants to be like Britney Spears as she forges marks in record books for money and plays mean tricks on teachers. Plain Julia – a single mother with a sick child and obliged to purchase pricey presents for her bosses. While jumping from guy to guy, femme fatale Olena ruthlessly abuses her friend Olesya, a meek and tearful ‘faculty slave’ who works on dissertations for others. The ambitious Anna-Maria does not mind getting a handsome student into bed and woe betide he who dares ignore her beauty. The dean, entrapped between his wife and lover, is disgusted at the intrigues and incompetence of these ‘scholars’, yet does not raise a finger to change anything. They all – Alice excluded! – bend low before Queen Raisa, the department head who embodies the worst traits of an old-fashioned vile leader.
You will enjoy this funny, though sharply-written black-and-white novel about the post-Soviet higher education system entailing bribery, nepotism, sexual harassment, and plagiarism.
About the Author
Mykolaiv-born Daryna Berezina is a Ukrainian poet, prose writer, translator, playwright, prize-winner of multiple literature competitions, and member of the National Union of Writers since 2006. For six years she taught English and linguistic special courses at the university in her city. The novel Academic Department earned her an award from the Smoloskyp (Torch) Ukrainian independent publishing house.