Publication Date: April 17, 2007
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A New York Review Books Original
“Tolstaya carves indelible people who roam the imagination long after the book is put down.” –Time
Tatyana Tolstaya’s short stories—with their unpredictable fairy-tale plots, appealingly eccentric characters, and stylistic abundance and flair—established her in the 1980s as one of modern Russia’s finest writers. Since then her work has been translated throughout the world. Edna O’Brien has called Tolstaya “an enchantress.” Anita Desai has spoken of her work’s “richness and ardent life.” Mixing heartbreak and humor, dizzying flights of fantasy and plunging descents to earth, Tolstaya is the natural successor in a great Russian literary lineage that includes Gogol, Yuri Olesha, Bulgakov, and Nabokov.
White Walls is the most comprehensive collection of Tolstaya’s short fiction to be published in English so far. It presents the contents of her two previous collections, On the Golden Porch and Sleepwalker in a Fog, along with several previously uncollected stories. Tolstaya writes of lonely children and lost love, of philosophers of the absurd and poets working as janitors, of angels and halfwits. She shows how the extraordinary will suddenly erupt in the midst of ordinary life, as she explores the human condition with a matchless combination of unbound imagination and unapologetic sympathy.
Born in Leningrad, Tatyana Tolstaya comes from an old Russian family that includes the writers Leo and Alexei Tolstoy. She studied at Leningrad State University and then moved to Moscow, where she continues to live. She is also the author of Pushkin’s Children: Writings on Russia and Russians.
Jamey Gambrell is a writer on Russian art and culture. Her translations include Marina Tsvetaeva's Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries 1917—1922 and Vladimir Sorokin's Ice, published by NYRB Classics on December 2006.
Antonina W. Bouis's most recent translation from the Russian is Edvard Radzinsky's Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar.
"Tolstaya's voice is utterly her own, incorporating comic exaggeration, sly satire, bursts of lyricism and whimsy to intoxicating effect." --National Post (Canada)
"Tolstaya demonstrates an impressive range in these 23 stories...[that encompass] political satire, flights of surrealism and realistic urban and domestic dramas, nearly all set in the Soviet era...Children, old folks and the struggling in-betweens–Tolstaya sees into all their hearts. Remarkable" –Kirkus
“Tolstaya offsets layers of exquisitely constructed language with the colloquial and the idiomatic and in a similar way layers the commonplace with the supernatural. The creation of a brilliant jumble of motley metaphors is her gift – not plot, trajectory, or the arc of a story, but the plunge into the middle of dazzling verbiage, her bright universe.” –The Boston Phoenix
Praise for Tolstaya:
Tolstaya is "considered by many critics and writers to be the foremost writer of her generation, a miniaturist whose stories combine the linguistic stardust of Vladimir Nabokov and the emotional wisdom of Anton Chekhov."–The Washington Post