Thursday, February 3, 2022

Brief Review: Aetherial Worlds by Tatyana Tolstaya


Tatyana Tolstaya’s collection of short stories Aetherial Worlds (in translation, published 2018) contains some of the most interesting new fiction I’ve read in a while. It twists along on the boundaries between realism and fantasy, between more conventional narrative and postmodern-like narrative surprises.

The stories are set mostly in Russia but sometimes take place in the U.S. The lives of the characters are as intriguingly mixed as all the other elements of the stories; they are usually women living their lives in believable combinations of more traditional, contemporary and feminist ways. The situations are often both ludicrous and frightening and the characterizations are complex and convincing. The terror and absurdity of insitutions seems both very Modernist and very right now. The style is high energy, funny, sarcastic, serious.

I can see the connections between the stories while each one is not much like the one before. This book will have a lot of appeal both for people who like innovation and for those who like a good story. There’s not much work out recently in any literary genre that I like as much as Aetherial Worlds.