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There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Talesby Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
Regarded as one of Russia's most talented contemporary writers, Petrushevskaya's collection of vignettes is far beyond the macabre, with characters who desperately cling to the past while living discreetly painful lives. Their souls dangle on the precipice of vacancy, and an unwavering sadness consumes them. The worlds of life and those of death are often blurred, while giving no time or place in which the stories occur. Given all of that, I find much comfort in these tales, as many of them point to a central theme in life: that nothing is as it seems.
"Petrushevskaya's own brand of fairy tale straddles the line between reality and utopia, intermingling the dismal oppressiveness of life in a Moscow apartment with the joy that can be found in a children's home. 'I think of myself as a documentary writer,' she has said, 'collecting documents about people's lives and reworking them.'" Alexandra Schwartz, The Nation (read the entire Nation review)
Synopses & Reviews
Vanishings and apparitions, nightmares and twists of fate, mysterious ailments and supernatural interventions haunt these stories by the Russian master Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, heir to the spellbinding tradition of Gogol and Poe. Blending the miraculous with the macabre, and leavened by a mischievous gallows humor, these bewitching tales are like nothing being written in Russia — or anywhere else in the world — today.
"A revelation — it is like reading late-Tolstoy fables, with all of the master's directness and brutal authority....A wonderful book." James Wood, The New Yorker
"Arresting....Incantatory....Timeless and troubling....This exquisite collection [is] vital, eerie and freighted with the moral messages that attend all cautionary tales....[Petrushevskaya] is hailed as one of Russia's best living writers. This slim volume shows why. Again and again, in surprisingly few words, her witchy magic foments an unsettling brew of conscience and consequences." The New York Times Book Review
"Thrillingly strange....Brilliantly disturbing....The fact that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is Russia's premier writer of fiction today proves that the literary tradition that produced Dostoyevsky, Gogol, and Babel is alive and well." The Daily Beast
"Awesomely creepy." New York
"As bleak as Beckett, as astringent as witch hazel, as poetic as your finest private passing moments...There Once Lives a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby gave me nightmares. This celebrated Russian author is so disquieting that long after Solzhenitsyn had been published in the Soviet Union, her fiction was banned — even though nothing about it screams 'political' or 'dissident' or anything else. It just screams....If there's any justice, this humble paperback will be greeted as the pinnacle of modern literature that it is — but as Petrushevskaya would be the first to say, to hope for justice is to invite mockery. Better just to keep your head down and write... like this." Elle
The literary event of Halloween: a book of otherworldly power from Russia's preeminent contemporary fiction writer.
Vanishings and aparitions, nightmares and twists of fate, mysterious ailments and supernatural interventions haunt these stories by the Russian master Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, heir to the spellbinding tradition of Gogol and Poe. Blending the miraculous with the macabre, and leavened by a mischievous gallows humor, these bewitching tales are like nothing being written in Russia — or anywhere else in the world-today.
About the Author
Ludmila Petrushevskaya was born in Moscow in 1938 and is the only indisputable canonical writer currently writing in Russian today. She is the author of more than fifteen collections of prose, among them the short novel The Time: Night, shortlisted for the Russian Booker Prize in 1992, and Svoi Krug, a modern classic about the 1980’s Soviet intelligentsia. Petrushevskaya is equally important as a playwright: since the 1980s her numerous plays have been staged by the best Russian theater companies. In 2002, Petrushevskaya received Russia’s most prestigious prize, The Triumph, for lifetime achievement. She lives in Moscow.
Keith Gessen was born in Russia and currently lives in Brooklyn. He was educated at Harvard and Syracuse. He is a founder of the magazine n+1 and translator of the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Voices from Chernobyl. His work has also appeared in the Dissent, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books. All the Sad Young Literary Men is his first book.
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