The Explosive World of Tatyana N. Tolstaya's Fiction

The Explosive World of Tatyana N. Tolstaya's Fiction

The Explosive World of Tatyana N. Tolstaya's Fiction

The Explosive World of Tatyana N. Tolstaya's Fiction

Synopsis

"Helena Goscilo spotlights Tolstaya's rich interweaving of myth, folklore, songs, children's games, and literary texts into stories of stunning imaginative power. Tolstaya's stylistic pyrotechnics vividly illuminate immemorial concerns about life's meaning, the role of art and fantasy in the modern world, the nature of memory and narrative, and the status of "innocence" and "truth." Finally, The Explosive World of Tatyanna N. Tolstaya's Fiction assesses how Tolstaya's rhetorical strategies have led critics to label her poetic prose "postmodernist," although she ultimately emerges as a writer of traditional neohumanist values with a modernist technique." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Of all contemporary Russian women writers, none catapulted onto the Western cultural scene more dramatically than Tatyana Tolstaya. A comparison with Liudmila Petrushevskaia's case offers an instructive insight into the rapidity with which Tolstaya became a luxury product suitable for export and elaborate foreign marketing. Just four years after her literary debut in 1983, Tolstaya published a volume of her stories in a print run of 65,000 copies. It instantly sold out in Russia and abroad, and a scant two years later was rendered into English as On the Golden Porch (trans.Antonina Bouis , 1989), thanks to Alfred A. Knopf, which in 1991 brought out a second volume of her prose, Sleepwalker in a Fog (trans.Jamey Gambrell). Although Petrushevskaia has been writing for more than a quarter century, no sizable collection of her drama or fiction saw publication in Russia until 1988, and American publishers have yet to assemble a comparable anthology of prose or plays gleaned from the substantial corpus of her works. No American journalist has solicited Petrushevskaia's opinions on topics ranging from Pirandello to pelmeni, as has happened with Tolstaya.

Made accessible to an anglophone readership through translation, Tolstaya exudes panache and self-confidence, has an excellent command of English, and relishes speaking her mind--all factors that partly account for continued American and British interest in her observations about Russian and American life, academia, the literary scene, glasnost, and, above all, women and feminism. These opinions, couched in colorful and self-conscious hyperbole, have been publicized through interviews and articles printed in magazines and newspapers ranging from The New York Review of Books and The New Republic to local and university papers.

Much of Tolstaya's notoriety in the United States, at least among liberal academics and journalists, springs from her vociferous, selective, and largely unreasoned attacks against feminism, American life, and what she scorns as a crudely ideological cast to current academic trends. Given Tolstaya's background and the society in which her values evolved, her views are not only unsurprising, but quite typical of the middle-aged Russian intelligentsia. If those views frequently appear self-contradictory and, moreover, puzzling in light of Tolstaya's attendance at conferences on femi-

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