Sleepwalker in a Fog

Sleepwalker in a Fog

by Tatyana Tolstaya, Jamey Gambrell
     
 
By "the most original, tactile, luminous voice in Russian prose today" (Joseph Brodsky), Sleepwalker in a Fog is a collection of seven stories and a novella set in contemporary Russia. Here is Denisov, who fears his greatest accomplishment in life will be the treatise he wrote and tore up. He is betrothed to Lora, an incessant talker who dreams of having a fluffy

Overview

By "the most original, tactile, luminous voice in Russian prose today" (Joseph Brodsky), Sleepwalker in a Fog is a collection of seven stories and a novella set in contemporary Russia. Here is Denisov, who fears his greatest accomplishment in life will be the treatise he wrote and tore up. He is betrothed to Lora, an incessant talker who dreams of having a fluffy tail. We also read of Natasha, who searches Leningrad and her memory for her lost love; of Dmitry Ilich's elaborate seduction of Olga Mikhailovna; and more. In the tradition of such writers as Gogol and Chekhov, Tatyana Tolstaya transforms ordinary lives into something magical and strange.

Translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
There is a bleakness to this short story collection missing in the author's previous, acclaimed On Golden Porch . Although these eight narratives again exhibit Tolstaya's distinctive style--a mixture of soaring flights of poetry and fantasy, sardonic humor and subtle, ironic commentaries on society--her vision of human nature here is darker, less forgiving. The title story explores the often absurd lives of a middle-aged couple. Denizov's rich fantasy life seems more real than his everyday existence, but he is forced into the real world when the somnambulist father of his daffy, materialistic fiancee, Lora, escapes his caretaker and disappears. Despised by the neighbors in their communal apartment building, the retarded young protagonist of the poignant ``Night'' is utterly dependent on his mother, but after a brief burst of freedom, he understands the horrifying dangers outside his cloistered environment. ``Heavenly Flame'' is a Gogolian story of a man who is pathetically eager to be loved but who loses the solace of his friends at a nearby dacha when one of them makes an idle, malicious comment about him. ``Most Beloved'' sympathetically conveys the empty life of an aged former governess whose devotion to her former pupils is not reciprocated. Tolstaya's trenchant observations about the paradoxes of human nature give these tales universal resonance. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
In a follow-up collection of eight stories to the much- acclaimed On the Golden Porch (1989), Tolstaya is, by turns, deftly Chekhovian, orchestrating an ensemble of characters, and deeply internal, so that a character's revery or fantasy redeems or at least enlarges a squalid present age. The title piece—one about Denison, who has tried and failed at every art but whose imagination relieves his dreary life, and about his fianc�e, Lora, who brings her father to a country healer so that his "warped energy fields" can be made right—is a dazzling tour de force with a precise metaphoric vision. Likewise, in "The Moon Came Out," a heartbreaker written in translucent lyrical prose, Natasha searches Leningrad (and her memory) for her lost love. "Most Beloved" is a moving fictional reminiscence of childhood and youth at a country dacha, where the narrator was overseen by Zhenechka ("we...were certain of her immortality"). It manages to evoke the past nostalgically while avoiding sentimentality. Other stories are more satirical, though not necessarily lighter: In "The Poet and the Muse," for example, Nina tries to cure the poet Grushunya, allowing Tolstaya to indulge in an on-target satire of bohemian life; "Limpopo," on the other hand, while containing satirical elements about the attempt of an activist journalist to initiate a forlorn black immigrant "into his poetic faith," is finally haunting in its dramatization of displacement. Only "Serafim" and "Night," though mostly effective, fail to be completely convincing. Once again, Tolstaya displays marvelous erudition and an elegiac tone. Her range and depth of feeling make this second collection as remarkable as her first.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679730637
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/28/1993
Edition description:
1st Vintage international ed
Pages:
204
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

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