WHO: Tatyana Tolstaya
WHAT: AETHERIAL WORLDS, stories
WHEN: Published by Knopf March 22, 2018
WHERE: The author lives in Moscow.
WHY: “Uniformly masterful.
“These stories from Tolstaya reject any attempt at easy categorization, resulting in a profound, surprising, and rich experience. Some stories, like the title work, which details a narrator named Tatyana’s unhappy experience teaching creative writing to American college students in 1992 and owning a home in New Jersey with endless problems, seem straightforwardly autobiographical.
“Other stories, such as ‘The Invisible Maiden,’ about memories of a dacha, or ‘A Young Lady in Bloom,’ which recalls a stint delivering telegrams as a student, echo the lyricism of the Russian masters and glow with ‘the swanlike whiteness of the past.’ Others are more essayistic: ‘The Square’ meditates on the frightening painting of the artist Kazimir Malevich; ‘Official Nationality’ modestly distills the Russian character to three bullet points: ‘boldness, longanimity, and “Let’s hope.”‘ Some, such as ‘The Window,’ are surreal allegories in the manner of Gogol.
“While the works blend fantasy and fact, often within the same story, what unites them all is Tolstaya’s singular and assured voice, capable of beautiful specificity—noticing ‘the calm blue flower of propane’ on a stove—and of surveying history from above and proclaiming, matter-of-factly, that ‘autocracy is basically self-explanatory.’
–PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, a starred and boxed review
“A gem. Elegant, lyrical tales woven with melancholy and world-weariness — but also with a curious optimism.” –KIRKUS, a starred and boxed review
“Edgy, brash, slyly surreal, and mordantly funny.
Tolsyaya’s daring, masterful stories, crisply translated, glint and whirl with extraordinary dimension and force.” –Donna Seaman, in a starred review for BOOKLIST
. . . . .
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
My grandfather Aleksey Tolstoy, a famous Russian writer, attended the Saint Petersburg Technological Institute in his youth, starting in 1901, thinking he would like to become an engineer. But he never became one. He described to my father how difficult it was for him studying there.
Here is his professor by the blackboard, addressing the students: “Let’s picture a cigarlike object….” And that’s it! My young grandpa is in a trance. He is picturing something cigar- like… he sees a cigar…. You need to clip the end of it before you can smoke it…. Golden cutters carefully trim away the dry brown leaves—what wonderful aroma wafts from quality Havana tobacco!… Out of nowhere appears a balloon-shaped brandy snifter full of heavy, red-brown cognac, casting golden reflections…. Oh, to grasp the glass in your palm, warming it… the undulating golden flickers… the bluish smoke… you inhale it, you tap the cigar to break off the ash. It’s dusk, the heavy drapes drawn back. Outside, through the window, there is a crepuscular early evening on snowy Saint Petersburg streets; a sleigh pulled by a courser silently whooshes by—who’s rushing, and where? To the theater? To a romantic rendezvous?
Translated from the Russian by Anya Migdal.
Knopf. 238 pages. $25.95 ISBN 978-1-5247-3277-6
To interview the author, contact:
Yaima Villarreal | 212-572-2011 | email@example.com