Monday, January 4, 2010

Just Shelved

There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Fairy Tales There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

My rating: 4 of 5 stars Although this wonderful collection of short stories is billed as "scary fairy stories," I prefer the interpretation of Keith Gessen and Anna Summers in the introduction to their translation of Petrushevskaya's work (I admit I hadn't heard of her before a brief summary in NPR, but now understand her status as a foremost Russian author). They refer to the collected stories as nekyia, a Greek term used to "describe travels to the underworld and dialogues with the dead...(i)n this collection, nearly every story is a form of nekyia. Characters depart from physical reality under exceptional circumstances: during a heart attack, childbirth, a major psychological shock, a suicide attempt, a car accident. Under tremendous duress, they become propelled into a parallel universe, where they undergo experiences that can only be described allegorically, in the form of a parable or fairy tale." This is a much richer and more just description of the harrowing and delightful stories to be found in this collection, although certainly not all of the tales can be reduced to mere parable. Especially in the longer stories, many of which I would consider to be modern masterpieces, the fantastical flourishes highlight the tremendous absurdity of what it is to constantly be in fear, vanishings and disappearances, to horde the few luxuries one has left - in short, the very landscape of crushing poverty and government oppression. The shorter, more tale-esque stories are on the whole far less impressive and simplistic. However, the variety here reveals the virtuosity of the writer, and her stunning ability to charm and reveal; to witness and to conjure. Weird and wonderful. View all my reviews >>

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