There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Fairy Tales

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Author, Keith Gessen, Translator, Anna Summers, Translator , trans. from the Russian by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers. Penguin $15 (206p) ISBN 978-0-14-311466-6

Masterworks of economy and acuity, these brief, trenchant tales by Russian author and playwright Petrushevskaya, selected from her wide-ranging but little translated oeuvre over the past 30 years, offer an enticement to English readers to seek out more of her writing. The tales explore the inexplicable workings of fate, the supernatural, grief and madness, and range from adroit, straightforward narratives to bleak fantasy. Frequently on display are the decrepit values of the Soviet system, as in “The New Family Robinson,” where a family tries to “outsmart everyone” by relocating to a ramshackle cabin in the country. Domestic problems get powerful and tender treatment; in “My Love,” a long-suffering wife and mother triumphs over her husband's desire for another woman. Darker material dominates the last section of the book, with tortuous stories, heavy symbolism and outright weirdness leading to strange and unexpected places. Petrushevskaya's bold, no-nonsense portrayals find fresh, arresting expression in this excellent translation. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 07/13/2009
Release date: 09/01/2009
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