Aetherial Worlds

Aetherial Worlds


Book - 2018
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From one of modern Russia's finest writers, a spellbinding collection of eighteen stories, her first to be translated into English in more than twenty years. Ordinary realities and yearnings to transcend them lead to miraculous other worlds in this dazzling collection of stories. A woman's deceased father appears in her dreams with clues about the afterlife; a Russian professor in a small American town constructs elaborate fantasies during her cigarette break; a man falls in love with a marble statue as his marriage falls apart; a child glimpses heaven through a stained-glass window. With the emotional insight of Chekhov, the surreal satire of Gogol, and a unique blend of humor and poetry all her own, Tolstaya transmutes the quotidian into aetherial alternatives. These tales, about politics, identity, love, and loss, cut to the core of the Russian psyche, even as they lay bare human universals. Tolstaya's characters--seekers all--are daydreaming children, lonely adults, dislocated foreigners in unfamiliar lands. Whether contemplating the strategic complexities of delivering telegrams in Leningrad or the meditative melancholy of holiday aspic, vibrant inner lives and the grim elements of existence are registered in equally sharp detail in a starkly bleak but sympathetic vision of life on earth. A unique collection from one of the first women in years to rank among Russia's most important writers.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018
ISBN: 9781524732776
Branch Call Number: FICTION Tol
Description: vii, 241 pages ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Migdal, Anya


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Apr 13, 2018

This writer is new to me, but I’ll be seeking her out more. With translations, it’s always tough to discern who contributes what, so I’ll just say that this collection was a joy to read. Dark, sometimes bitter wit, interspersed with passages of life-affirming hope, and flights of dreamy fancy. An unusual focus on life’s stranger details and its inhabiting characters. These chapters elucidate different things in a different way, and I appreciate the viewpoint.
The subtitle is “stories,” but most read like memoir vignettes, with an occasional essay. There was only one dry passage that I skipped at the halfway mark. (I’m picky about essays.)
Oh, and I checked out this book because the title appealed to me, knowing nothing of the author. I enjoyed this far more than any of her grandfather’s work.


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