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Literature / My Posthumous Adventures

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My Posthumous Adventures (Russian: Мои посмертные приключения) is a 2001 Christian novel by Yulia Voznesenskaya. Called a "parable novel" by the author, it details the way of a forty-odd-year-old woman Anna into the afterlife after a fall from a window. At first very nearly deceived and taken by demons, Anna is saved with the help of her mother, grandfather and guardian angel, and in the course of six months experiences a rise through the aerial tollhouses where souls are judged for each sin separately, a brief repose in Heaven and a perilous journey through the outer circles of Hell.


My Posthumous Adventures contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Traditional Christianity: One of the reasons the novel gets criticized. While some points brought up by the critics are arguable, there are several obvious moments of this trope getting played straight.
    • Orthodox Christian teachings are quite clear that humans can’t turn into angels (or vice versa). Alyosha tells Anna that children who die before the age of seven eventually become angels.
    • Anna is told her soul has a chance to return to Earth and linger there forever as a ghost. According to Orthodox theology, a soul after death can be brought either to Heaven or to Hell, but not anywhere else.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Heaven has multiple regions by the level of the souls' virtue. Unlike Hell (see below), here one can't get worse, only better, but sometimes people choose to remain on the lower planes. As Anna wasn't particularly virtuous or pious she is only allowed to see the Students' Vale, where the newly arrived souls get accustomed to Heaven, and the Crystal Plain (see Crystal Landscape below).
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  • Beaten By A Girl: What got Olaf Redbeard stuck in Hell: he couldn't bear it that a woman was trying to save him, even if it was his beloved wife.
  • Big Eater: Inverted with Anna who had never been even close to one, which lets her pass the tollhouse of gluttony with relative ease.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Anna finds God, she is given another chance to live, gets a wonderful family by adoption and returns to her homeland, and Anna’s grandfather, grandmother, great-aunt and brother are all in Heaven. However, Maria and Georgy are in Hell (though very likely to be ultimately saved), Olaf is in a deeper circle of Hell and his chances of redemption are extremely low, and Anna’s father has damned himself to such an afterlife that no one even knows where he is.
  • Circles of Hell: If not exactly circles, but Hell is clearly divided into different places of various sorts of sinners. If a soul gets worse, it is dragged lower, if it gets better, it can get higher.
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  • Cowardly Lion: Anna's friend the Big-Eared One whom she saves from the deeper circles of Hell. He is The Eeyore most of the time, always complaining and whining in fear, and at first his idea of solving problems is sitting quietly and hoping the problems would solve themselves. But it is him who defends Anna from the soul-eaters and accompanies her on her extremely dangerous journey to the better regions.
    Anna: That was the Big-Eared One for you. Cowardly but devoted. I knew he'd let himself be eaten rather than betray me.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The Boring City in Hell. It seems a pleasant seaside resort with anything one needs, and the people are able to change their looks in a moment in any way they like, but everyone suffers through agonizing boredom and dreariness, already in the morning dreading the though to kill time for another day.
  • Crystal Landscape: The Crystal Plain, where Helga grows crystal flowers and prays for her husband, waiting for him.
  • Dead All Along: It turns out Georgy died even before Anna did.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Unintentionally. Tatiana's son Alexander, later adopted by Anna, has the same name as Anna's aborted son would have had, had he been born, while his daughters Tatiana and Anastasia are the namesakes of Anna's never conceived children who would have been born if the abortion hadn't made her infertile.
  • Died Happily Ever After: Several examples.
    • Played straight with Anna's grandfather, his wife, his sister-in-law, and Anna's little brother who all live together in Heaven.
    • Suggested as a future possibility for Anna's mother Maria and Georgy who end up in the outermost place of Hell, a stony mountain with a labyrinth of caves where demons can't reach them. The souls that live there have high chances to be pardoned someday.
    • Also implied to be a chance for Olaf, even though he is in a much deeper circle: if he repents, he will get reunited with his wife in Heaven.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Olaf Redbeard insisted that he ended up in Hell only because he was assassinated and not killed in battle.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Helga drowned herself after her husband's death.
    • As the police initially believed, Anna threw herself off a balcony because of her husband's cheating. Anna finds the idea absurd.
    Anna: If I had really reacted like this to Georgy's affairs, there wouldn't be enough balconies in our apartment building.
  • Empty Shell: The fate of many souls in Hell, to the point they lose even the shortest memory and forget other people the moment they don't see them. The only exception that we see is Olaf, who still remembers his wife almost two thousand years after her ascension to Heaven.
  • Eternal Love: Helga has loved and still loves her husband for two thousand years and counting, and he loves her even though his pride led to him Refusing Paradise. It's implied that some day Olaf will repent and embrace Christian faith, and they will be reunited.
  • Ethereal Choir: At the gates of Heaven Anna hears one, singing "Glory to God!"
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Since Holy Burns Evil and the especially sinful souls feel sick whenever they come near a virtuous soul or a good angel, angels visit Hell in the form of large white birds.
  • A Friend in Need: Anna isn't too glad to see her friend Natalia chattering and gossiping about her death. It's revealed towards the end, however, that it was because Natalia asked priests to pray for Anna's soul at Prothesis (an Eastern Orthodox part of the liturgy that involves preparing bread and wine for the Eucharist) that Anna's guardian angel brought her loaves of heavenly bread to Hell.
  • Gallows Humor: Her troubled life teaches Anna to use it when she's really afraid. She keeps her sarcasm even when she dies.
  • Give My Regards in the Next World: Anna's mother Maria is in the outskirts of Hell while Anna's little brother Alyosha is in Heaven. When meeting Anna upon her death, Maria begs her to bring Alyosha her love if she manages it to Heaven.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion:
    • Anna has had a trauma all her life after having an abortion at eighteen (not to mention that it rendered her infertile).
    • Meanwhile, Tatiana wouldn't agree to abort her son after her brief affair, and she goes to Heaven for her repentance and piety, while the boy becomes Happily Adopted by Anna.
  • Good Shepherd: Saint Evgeny, Anna's grandfather and a priest.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Anna's family trait on the mother's side, passed down the generations all the way from Helga.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Anna nearly gets drowned in quicksands, she insists that her Guardian Angel leaves her there and rescues the Big-Eared One whom she had grown to love. Bonus that it turns out to be her husband.
  • I Will Wait for You: Helga has waited for Olaf on earth when he was away in battles, and she is ready to wait for him in Heaven until Judgment Day if necessary.
  • Light Is Good: Usually played straight. Heaven is full of light, righteous souls are of a light shade and the saints and angels have a Holy Halo. In Hell, when a soul gets better it gets light gray and the worst ones are black.
    • However, demons can construct a false version of celestial light, so a soul at deathbed has to be extremely cautious with the trope – Anna gets nearly deceived like that in the first chapters.
  • Lying to Protect Your Feelings: Anna used to tell her mother she was perfectly fine when she was, in fact, going to be arrested, and she also told her friends she had no troubles in her marriage. Since these are the only lies she is guilty of, she easily passes the tollhouse of lying.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: For the last twelve years, Anna's husband wasn't away because he was visiting his lovers – he was visiting his son.
  • Must Make Amends: After an affair with a married man, Tatiana not only prayed to God to forgive them both that sin, but she also prayed for her lover's wife.
  • New Old Flame: A very interesting case with Georgy and Anna, as they rekindle theirs in the afterlife and initially don't recognize each other, being brainwashed in Hell.
  • Posthumous Narration: The story is narrated by Anna herself. Subverted in the end when it is revealed it was a clinical death followed by a coma.
  • Pride Before a Fall: Anna's worst sin is her pride, and for that she narrowly avoids being snatched by demons before even reaching Heaven. It takes her the whole novel to realize her mistakes.
    • Seems to pop up every now and then in their family, starting from Olaf.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Anna looks a lot like Helga, to the point that the half-conscious Olaf initially mistakes her for his wife.
  • Suicide Is Shameful: When Anna passes the Lake of Despair in Hell, she sees suicidal souls frozen into its ice.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Olaf is a burly one-eyed man with two fingers missing, and Helga is a lovely blonde. The contrast gets stronger in the afterlife when Helga follows Christ to Heaven and Olaf stays in Hell.

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