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Aetherial Worlds: Stories

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  201 ratings  ·  55 reviews
From one of modern Russia's finest writers, a spellbinding collection of eighteen stories, her first to be translated into English in more than twenty years.

Ordinary realities and yearnings to transcend them lead to miraculous other worlds in this dazzling collection of stories. A woman's deceased father appears in her dreams with clues about the afterlife; a Russian profe
Audio CD
Published March 20th 2018 by Books on Tape (first published 2014)
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3.77  · 
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 ·  201 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Amalia Gavea
"It’s dusk, the heavy drapes drawn back. Outside, through the window, there is a crepuscular Saint Petersburg, early evening on snowy streets; a sleigh pulled by a courser silently whooshes by—who’s rushing, and where? To the theater? To a romantic rendezvous?"

We all know the contribution of the Russian writers to the literary world. Most of us are sworn avid readers of the classics. Speaking strictly for me, I discovered the beauty and vastness of Russian Literature through the much-loved, ne
Ambiguity, liminal spaces - this collection of short stories defies definition, and is nothing short of brilliant.

I realize that tells you very little about what's happening in this book. It's not just short stories, but also some essays, some treatises, some humor, and some politics. Imaginings on the washing machine that eats socks, real estate and home ownership in America versus Russia, imagining a world where Italy didn't exist, and some very clever political allegories (like some of her Ru
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
National Book Award Longlist for Translated Literature 2018. I enjoyed Tolstaya’s caustic sense of humor that is often on display in this short story collection. I also loved her ‘Russianness’ whether it is making aspic for New Year’s Eve (‘Aspic’) despite the fact that no one likes it, just because it is ‘tradition’; or recounting her summers at her family’s dacha (‘The Invisible Maiden’).

Tolstaya’s imagination often takes flight—creating whole cloth scenarios from just observing a young man a
4.5 stars

I really didn't want this to end. I had to force myself to finish this because I just wanted to spend the rest of my reading life following in the footsteps of Tatyana Tolstaya, watching her travel, move homes, teach classes, reminisce, fall in and out of love, and, occasionally, spin a story. This book is a miscellany-an essay here, a personal reminiscence there, a travelogue, and, once in a while, a bit of fiction that sweeps you off your feet with its beauty, its strangeness, or its
Lolly K Dandeneau
via my blog:
'They passed on, their personal suns went out, and there was no one left to speak of them, to think of them and to tell their stories, to laugh and shake one’s head while remembering.'

I loved each of these stories, from tales about art, love and loss, politics and war, childhood and aspic, there wasn’t one story that didn’t captivate me. How does a man falling in love with a marble statue lead to losing his wife and children? Is a gypsy to be be
4.5 stars. Loved this collection of short stories and essays, so very Russian in tone, with a pitch-dark sense of humour and startling images.
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways-arcs
Wow. I had high hopes for this one after I cleared the first couple stories which were quick and weird and somewhat accessible. However, I hit a wall when trying to get through the first lengthy story. I was completely turned off and started skimming, waiting for some type of action or relevance to jump off the page. Instead, tedium set in and I found myself wondering why I was even pushing on. It seemed like the label of stories (both short and long) were a mere guise for the author to write se ...more

Aetherial Worlds: Stories by Tatyana Tolstaya, beautifully translated from the Russian by Anya Migdal, is a collection of 18 short stories that skilfully cover an array of different topics such as love, loneliness, loss, travel, art, literature, the writing process, and identity, both individual and cultural.

The stories that stuck out to me the most were the auto-fiction and essayistic pieces dealing with questions of identity and the range of conflicting emotions that come with being an expatri
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This pleasantly surprising collection runs the gamut from mostly autofiction stories in the vein of Knausgard to captivating essays on The Black Square and Tolstoy (a distant relative) and Emaneul Swedenborg to even a fantastic and fantastical allegory on communism. Tolstaya is a natural storyteller with humor and insight, and she has an eye for stunning language. In true Tolstaya fashion, I had left this loaned library book outside overnight accidentally while grilling, and a fateful shower or ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Did not finish. Love Russian literature and saw this in the recommended reads section @ Powell’s Books in Portland and it looked interesting. Alas, it is not. I wonder how much was lost in translation as this felt like a slog notwithstanding the superlative reviews on the cover. On to the next.
Amy Lavine
I liked these short stories & especially Tatiyana’s voice. It was interesting to read details of like in Russia as well as the immigrant voice. The first story may be the best about how she lost her sight for 3 months & what it felt like to get it back. It the book is too long.
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. BIG thanks to the brilliant minds at TBR (Tremendous Books Recommendations) for sending me this book that I hadn't heard of and wouldn't have gotten into my hands otherwise. And to be honest, for a while I'm not sure I would have kept reading as it took me some time to get my bearings with the writing. These short stories are a combination of essay and fantasy to the point where it's hard to know if some of the characters she's talking about are real. But then I googled Turkmenbashi of Turk ...more
Anna L
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I want to like this so much more than 3 stars. This collection is culled from 3 different books of short stories, and they are much more coherent and cohesive and humorous in the original Russian, where they are also arranged into thematic blocs. This collection does a faithful translation job, but the elegance and humor and mystery of the original language handicaps the stories, and renders them safe and mute. Also, I feel that this book was arranged on the principle of “here are all the styles ...more
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the whole I enjoyed this collection of 18 stories from acclaimed Russian writer Tatyana Tolstaya, but I must admit that having come to review the book after having read it a few weeks ago I found that few of the stories remained in my memory. So while I found them interesting and very readable at the time, they don’t seem to me to be of any overwhelming merit. Certainly a must-read for anyone interested in Russian literature, which I am, and certainly a useful and pleasurable introduction to ...more
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember as a child, learning how to write. That off-white page with dark blue lines and the central dotted line- like a road. Those blue lines were rarely to be crossed. Only a few lucky letter could leap under- g, y, f... you get the point. Tolstaya does the same with her writing. Her language and meaning has this hard stop. But it is a beautiful stop. Existing not so much as rule, but as reason. The control of language and meaning in these stories is really quite impressive.
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Even if the rest of the book were complete trash (which it’s not), I’d read it several times over just for the last story, “See the Reverse” (linked below). Tolstaya’s storylines may not be overtly compelling but her writing is so funny — dark, wry, & judgmental — & straight-up WEIRD that it makes it all worth it. I wish I hadn’t read it for book club & that I could’ve consumed it in sips rather than gulps, but I still enjoyed it.
Jenny Bhatt
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tatyana Tolstaya's second short story collection (translated by Anya Midgal into English — please see the note at the end) in over 20 years, Aetherial Worlds, belongs to the latter kind. What makes this collection of short stories different from all of the above types is how these stories merge commentary on the past and the present through a variety of styles and forms: auto-fiction, essayistic pieces, and allegorical tales. Due to this, they may not be to every reader's tastes. Yet many themes ...more
Aida Alberto
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received an advanced review copy from NetGalley. All opinions are my own. Sometimes life becomes very hectic so that reading becomes a cherished commodity pushed aside which is where short stories step in. This is a beautiful collection of stories that interlock one with another but that can be read at your own pace and can be put down when the time comes. It's definitely worthy of being pre ordered and savor every story as you go along because this book will stay with you long after the last ...more
Becca Younk
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's something here for everyone. A meditation on art, a recipe for aspic, a modern fable, and much more. Tolstaya's voice is totally unique; I don't think I've ever read anyone like her. There are a few stories than weren't really for me, but there's enough in here that the good ones, like the aforementioned aspic recipe, are so stunning that I don't mind the weaker stories. Tolstaya is extremely funny, and she writes in such a way that her stories don't just have an ending, they often end i ...more
Corinne Keener
Tolstaya's voice is so singular that it feels like a privilege to get to read her work. She can switch from sentimental to sarcastic in the length of one sentence. Her punchlines take me so by surprise I’ve actually laughed out loud.

Aetherial Worlds is filled with strange stories that range from quotidian observations to fables but there’s alway this sense of another plane of existence just kind of shimmering off in the background. The magic is written as a matter of fact, but not so much in a w
Jun 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-give-up
I believe somewhere on my bookshelves I have a collection of stories by Tatyana Tolstaya in Russian. Perhaps years ago I even read some of them!

Nowadays I don't read too many books in Russian; I mostly just read news or journal article length pieces (or tweets) in Russian. I saw this and was curious. I guess I was a little disappointed.

It seems to me logical that a collection of stories like this that were originally published in various places and times would have that information somewhere in
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i was really enjoying this and thought it was so beautiful and playful and fun (despite it being clearly written by someone who grew up super privileged in a homogenous bubble who views the working class and non-white ppl (or really, non-russians), to be concepts that are slightly amusing bc so inherently foreign to her)... i especially loved "invisible maiden" and "smoke and shadows" and "the square" and "aetherial worlds" but then i hit "without", which, despite being only 5 pages, was complet ...more
Michael Grace
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exhausting and captivating journey through surrealist modern times, Aetherial Worlds is a collection of short stories and philosophical essays in narrative form. Some drag on in their incessant detail. Some are concise and open-ended. In all, this collection is a masterwork.

I bought this at Shakespeare and Co. while on vacation in Paris, purely based on the cover and the pretense that it was a short story compilation. Over the course of the last month, reading stories sparingly at airports, o
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This writer is new to me, but I’ll be seeking her out more. With translations, it’s always tough to discern who contributes what, so I’ll just say that this collection was a joy to read. Dark, sometimes bitter wit, interspersed with passages of life-affirming hope, and flights of dreamy fancy. An unusual focus on life’s stranger details and its inhabiting characters. These chapters elucidate different things in a different way, and I appreciate the viewpoint.
The subtitle is “stories,” but most
I liked this very much. The language, the range of different stories; essays about art and politics, stories about death, children, summer, russia, broken hearts and dissatisfied lives in Russia, America, Greece. All dense with emotions, surreal images, humor, poetry and stark observations about the human experience. Some short and heavy with love and loss, some longer with flowy narratives captivating language.
All with these sort of off, bleak people, left out a little too long in the rain, li
Oct 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual
Even though the book is announced as stories to me it sounded more like essays. I how far am I to think that Tolstaya is pretending to be a cynical as she comes across in places or does she really mean it. When she portrays people like Malevich and Swedenborg in a little bit a tongue in cheek tone, does she mean that she doesn't like them or that her narrator is just mocking them. It's confusing.
The author also refers to life after death in several "stories" but never really says if she believes
Lemon Flowers
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A refreshing new voice on Russian literature! I would read it a million times over.
There's something about reading short stories that you would normally only find in male authors like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and taken through a woman's perspective that feels more enlightening on already eloquent and ancient-feeling stories.
The surrealism she captures while also feeling very grounded to reality is something that i haven't read in any modern author.
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Some of the stories were exactly what I hoped for. A surrealistic plot with a dash of bitterness you can find only in Russian literature. But I didn't connect well with the character the author choose for herself. I also think that some of the beauty of the stories are lost in translation to a non-slavic language. Would love to read it again in polish (as russian is not in my reach). My top choice: The Window, Judith with the Sword, Father, A Young Lady in Bloom (but the rest is also good!)
Pearse Anderson
I made it 1/3rd of the way through this and found out that I wasn't really wanting to listen to more of it. It was well written, it was certainly windy and not super plot-driven, and though I enjoy Tatyana Tolstaya something about this just wasn't working out. I have two 19th century histories to start, sorry, maybe I'll return to her later in life.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Surreal, filled with dark Russian humor, insight into the mysteries of the world. How can you not fall in love with an author who describes the thoughts a professor has about what cannot be said to the student who is trying to con the professor:
“Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. I’ll corner you and eat your brains for breakfast.”
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Tatyana Tolstaya (Татьяна Толстая) was born in Leningrad, U.S.S.R. As the great-grandniece of the Russian author Leo Tolstoy and the granddaughter of Alexei Tolstoy, Tolstaya comes from a distinguished literary family; but, according to Marta Mestrovic's interview in Publishers Weekly with the author, she hates ‘‘being discussed as a relative of someone.’’

Still, Tolstaya's background is undeniably