White Walls
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White Walls : Collected Stories

4.03 (328 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

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."show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 124.5 x 208.3 x 20.3mm | 385.56g
  • The New York Review of Books, Inc
  • NYRB Classics
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Main
  • 1590171977
  • 9781590171974
  • 212,503

Review quote

"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"show more

About Tatyana Tolstaya

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'sIce, 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."show more

Review Text

Tolstaya demonstrates an impressive range in these 23 stories, most having first appeared in On the Golden Porch (1989) and Sleepwalker in a Fog (1992), together with some newer work.That range encompasses political satire, flights of surrealism and realistic urban and domestic dramas, nearly all set in the Soviet era. The longest story, "Limpopo," is outright political satire, a scattershot peppering of a rule-bound society run by individuals who think in categories and blinkered comrades who travel to Italy and find gloomy people under gray skies. The satirical and the surreal blend perfectly in "A Clean Sheet"; here, the profoundly depressed Ignatiev visits a hush-hush clinic for the removal of his "diseased organ," and emerges a new man, brutally assertive. Such transformations elude most of Tolstaya's characters. They suffer the indignities of life in communal apartments in Moscow or Leningrad, or live miserably on the outskirts, like the married couple in "The Fakir," who worship at the shrine of a dilettante who has his own place in central Moscow (heaven!). Tolstaya's favorite theme is an inexhaustible one: the passage of time, often accompanied by a potent regret for opportunities lost. Alexandra Ernestovna, 84, has survived three husbands, but it's her abandonment of her passionate lover that still gnaws at her ("Sweet Shura"). Middle-aged Natasha had one chance at love, blew it, and became a dull teacher ("The Moon Came Out"). The governess Zhenechka, a trusting soul, is recalled after her death by a former pupil; teased by her charges, exploited by employers and relatives, Zherechka deserved far better; "Most Beloved" is a moving tribute to simple goodness, flecked by remorse. The best expression of this theme is the marvelous "Fire and Dust." Newly married Rimma sees "enormous happiness" in her future as she contrasts her life with that of Pipka, a crazy disaster-prone bohemian, but somehow Rimma's life crumbles into an empty marriage while Pipka lands on her feet.Children, old folks and the struggling in-betweens - Tolstaya sees into all their hearts. Remarkable. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

328 ratings
4.03 out of 5 stars
5 35% (114)
4 40% (132)
3 19% (63)
2 5% (16)
1 1% (3)
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