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Tatyana Tolstaya

Author of The Slynx

50+ Works 1,785 Members 41 Reviews 3 Favorited

About the Author

Tatyana Tolstaya---"the most original, tactile, luminous voice in Russian prose today," according to Joseph Brodsky---worked at various publishing jobs after graduating from Leningrad University and appeared on the Moscow literary scene in 1983 with the favorably received story "Loves Me, Loves Me show more Not." Her first collection, On the Golden Porch (1988), proved extremely popular. Soon afterward she came to the United States on the first of a series of visiting university appointments and has plunged actively into cultural life in this country: She writes for the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, The New Yorker, and other magazines, as well as for publications in Russia. Her forte is the short story, her writing distinguished by exuberance, a talent for description, a comic sensibility, and more than a touch of the surreal. For one reviewer, "the discrepancy between fondest desires and disappointing reality" lies at the core of her writing, which is "a fiction of vast possibility, propelled not by plot, but by a narrative voice that imaginatively conveys the ambiguities of her characters' inner lives" (Baltimore Morning Sun). Sleepwalker in a Fog (1991) is her second book. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Disambiguation Notice:

Do not combine with LT entry for Leo Tolstoy's daughter, Tatyana Tolstoy.

Image credit: Yaffa Grinblatt / Whistling in the Dark

Works by Tatyana Tolstaya

The Slynx (2000) 822 copies
On the Golden Porch (1987) 207 copies
Sleepwalker in a Fog (1990) 159 copies
Aetherial Worlds: Stories (2018) 92 copies
Tolstoy Remembered (1928) 49 copies
In vuur en vlam (1988) 15 copies
De verhalen (1994) 10 copies
De l'élégance masculine (1987) 6 copies
Date with a Bird (1989) 6 copies
Изюм (2002) 4 copies

Associated Works

The Big Book of Science Fiction (2016) — Contributor — 409 copies
The Fierce and Beautiful World (New York Review Books Classics) (1970) — Introduction, some editions — 202 copies
The Penguin Book of International Women's Stories (1996) — Contributor — 113 copies
The Big Book of Modern Fantasy (2020) — Contributor — 108 copies
A Virago Keepsake to Celebrate Twenty Years of Publishing (1993) — Contributor — 47 copies
The New Soviet Fiction: Sixteen Short Stories (1989) — Contributor — 33 copies
Balancing Acts (1989) — Contributor — 25 copies


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Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Tolstaya, Tatyana
Other names
Tolstaya, Tatiana Nikitishna
Leningrad, Russia, USSR
Places of residence
Leningrad, Russia
Moscow, Russia
Richmond, Virginia, USA
Leningrad State University (Classics)
television host
Tolstoy, Alexei (grandfather)
Tolstoy, Leo (great-grand uncle)
Disambiguation notice
Do not combine with LT entry for Leo Tolstoy's daughter, Tatyana Tolstoy.



Do you like zany, hallucinatory prose? I don't, I'm a big partisan of Realism, Magical or straight up, but I read this novel anyway. Set hundreds of years after a nuclear holocaust in a village in a spot that used to be Moscow, people have built a social order based on mice and tyranny. Oldeners have survived the blast, which rendered them immune from natural death, but they do nothing useful, just wait around for society to evolve and engage in old arguments. People born since have a variety of radiation- related Consequences, and never understand what the Oldeners are talking about. Cultural memory has suffered a complete break.

Benedikt, our hero, is a simple Golubchik who has a fortuitous marriage into a powerful family and through this means comes into contact with books from the pre-nuclear blast. He falls head over heels for them and reads through the whole library of thousands of surviving volumes.

But lest you think all this reading elevates or improves Benedikt... no. Lacking all the cultural memory needed to place these works in context, they are just collections of words. There is no difference between a Brothers Karamazov and an issue of a knitting journal.

So it is clear then that books, ripped clear away from their cultural context, no longer function for the cause they originally sprung out of. Here I feel for Benedikt, as I think I as an American reader of Tolstaya's novel share a degree of trouble with him. The novel, in the midst of its inventive flights of prose, frequently references Russian poetry and touchstones I don't know, and the whole thing can be seen as a satire of Russian society from feudal through Soviet times, of which I only have the average piddling understanding of a member of the educated American masses. I no doubt missed a lot that an educated Russian wouldn't.
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lelandleslie | 26 other reviews | Feb 24, 2024 |
I find this almost impossible to review. Terrifying and humorous at the same time. A post apocalyptic Tsarist-Soviet fantasy. Pieces of Borges, Burgess, Gaiman, Hoban, and Walter Williams come to mind. I laughed my ass off at times.
Gumbywan | 26 other reviews | Jun 24, 2022 |
Written in a mixture of first, second, and third person, this novel about a post-Blast Moscow is a stinging commentary of the second half of the 20th century Russian politics. Everyone's a mutant, life is an abominable mess, and the people are fed selected bundles of art and literature by a familiar sounding State. Themes include the dangers and joys of art, man's vile and selfish nature, and those transcendental moments evoked by poetry and landscape. What, really, makes us civilized? Or, have we ever been?
My only qualm is that I don't know enough about Russian history and literature to understand the subtler intentions of the book. A , though, would read again. With Wikipedia close by.
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MaryJeanPhillips | 26 other reviews | Jun 22, 2022 |
Even though the book is announced as stories to me it sounded more like essays. I how far am I to think that Tolstaya is pretending to be a cynical as she comes across in places or does she really mean it. When she portrays people like Malevich and Swedenborg in a little bit a tongue in cheek tone, does she mean that she doesn't like them or that her narrator is just mocking them. It's confusing.
The author also refers to life after death in several "stories" but never really says if she believes in it or not. The same with other spiritual references.… (more)
Marietje.Halbertsma | 2 other reviews | Jan 9, 2022 |



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