Sian Jones's Reviews > There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales

There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
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Nov 14, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy-scifi, literature
Read in October, 2010

I read this twice in a row, because the first time wasn't enough to admire its craft. Petushevskaya uses the simplicity of the fairy tale form to comment on the bleakness and brutality of late 20th/early 21st-century life. Her settings are in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, but (not to put too nihilist a point on it) any reader in a post-industrialized society can empathize with the naked isolation, the disconnection, the chaos as national, local, and familial bonds break and splinter. She uses the expectations of the fairy tale form to estrange you from the quotidian world, like an unassuming garden flower that suddenly sprouts dirty syringes. These stories are almost devoid of contemporary fictional gestures so often promoted in workshops -- there is no labored balance between realized scenes and summarized scenes; entire stories succeed with or without one or two lines of dialogue; archetypes are deployed again and again with all the distorted emphasis and urgency of a dream; and they are all narrated in a singular, ancient, and comic voice. Brava to the author, and bravo to the translators, AND HOW.
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