Dr. Maxim Matusevich, a Seton Hall professor and director of the Russian and East European Studies program, recently had his narrative, The Road to Battambang published in the nationally acclaimed literary magazines the New England Review and The Kenyon Review.
The Road to Battambang centers around a French-Cambodian woman whose comfortable life dramatically changes when she returns to her country of origin, Cambodia. She reencounters the trauma she confronted during the Khmer Rouge genocide as a child in the 1970s.
Furthermore, she reconnects with a former Cambodian lover who assisted in her survival.
Dr. Matusevich mentioned that he wrote his work when he traveled to Cambodia in 2017 and recalled his own childhood in the Soviet Union.
“I was inspired to write this story during a recent trip to Cambodia,” Dr. Matusevich wrote in an email. “Here at Seton Hall I teach a number of global history courses, including a colloquium on totalitarianism. In part for this reason but also because I myself grew up in a society that could be loosely described as totalitarian (USSR).”
He emphasized that the story shines light on how society defines what is appropriate.
“I see this novella as an anti-Hollywood sort of story, a story that defies our conventional ideas of what’s appropriate and what’s viewed as acceptable by a broader society,” he said. “The truth is: there is no one script, there is no one prescription for how to deal with our past traumas. We can be both conventional and transgressive at the same time because we are human.”
Professor Tatiana Shiloff, adjunct professor of Russian, explained that she felt Dr. Matusevich’s work was captivating and sophisticated.
“His method of calm, uniform presentation resembles a pastel painting,” she said in an email. “This creates a favorable background in order to add to the plot some picturesque allegory, or describe the psychological, to the moment, state of the heroine, whose personal ordeal is precisely the basis of the plot.”
Matusevich’s students shared their thoughts about his recently published work.
Sophomore Alexandra Wells, who majors in history and English, found herself drawn to the publication.
“As a history and English major, the article captured my attention in two ways,” Wells wrote in an email. “One, the style of writing that was extremely captivating and second, the take on a historical event and the aftermath effects it would leave on people. The main character, Madame Rancourt, was well written and the idea of someone who goes back to the country where they experienced tragedy in the past is very interesting.”
Dr. Maxim Matusevich expressed his surprise and joy about being published in the New England Review.
“I began writing fiction about a year ago,” he said. “To my great surprise, both of my very first two stories got accepted for publication by prestigious literary journals –The Kenyon Review and New England Review. Their acceptance rate is less than 1 percent and not being a professional writer, I faced some daunting odds.”
Dr. Matusevich stressed the idea of acceptance in America being reflected in his publication.
“But the stories resonated with the editors, so I guess I was lucky that way,” he said. “Following the acceptance, the editors asked for some revisions but those were not extensive, they really wanted to preserve my own voice, which I took as a great compliment since I am not a native English speaker or writer. In a way, here lies the beauty of America – at its best this society doesn’t care who you are, where you come from, what you look like, whether or not you speak with an accent. If you have something to contribute – you’re welcome. I think we need to make sure that the country remains this way, that’s what makes it strong and unique.”
Kaitlyn Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.