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Sleepwalker in a Fog
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A collection of seven short stories and a novella by "the most original, tactile, luminous voice in Russian prose today" (Joseph Brodsky). Set in contemporary Russia, these fictions transform seemingly ordinary lives into something magical and strange. In the tradition of such writers as Gogol and Chekhov, Tolstaya gives us a crystalline vision of the human condition.
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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.)

" [Tolstaya] carves indelible people who roam the imagination long after the book is put down." -- Time " A gorgeous, intricate, wildly rampaging Russian garden in summer bloom." -- New Republic " Urgent and hyperreal...[Tolstaya] achieves extraordinary effects." -- The New York Times Book Review

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