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 professor in a small American town constructs elaborate fantasies during her cigarette break; a man falls in love with a marble statue as his marriage falls apart; a child glimpses heaven through a stained-glass window. With the emotional insight of Chekhov, the surreal satire of Gogol, and a unique blend of humor and poetry all her own, Tolstaya transmutes the quotidian into aetherial alternatives. These tales, about politics, identity, love, and loss, cut to the core of the Russian psyche, even as they lay bare human universals. Tolstaya's characters--seekers all--are daydreaming children, lonely adults, dislocated foreigners in unfamiliar lands. Whether contemplating the strategic complexities of delivering telegrams in Leningrad or the meditative melancholy of holiday aspic, vibrant inner lives and the grim elements of existence are registered in equally sharp detail in a starkly bleak but sympathetic vision of life on earth.
These twenty pieces address the politics, culture, and literature of Russia with both flair and erudition. Passionate and opinionated, often funny, and using ample material from daily life to underline their ideas and observations, Tatyana Tolstaya"s essays range across a variety of subjects. They move in one unique voice from Soviet women, classical Russian cooking, and the bliss of snow to the effect of Pushkin and freedom on Russia writers; from the death of the czar and the Great Terror to the changes brought by Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin in the last decade. Throughout this engaging volume, the Russian temperament comes into high relief. Whether addressing literature or reporting on politics, Tolstaya"s writing conveys a deep knowledge of her country and countrymen. Pushkin"s Children is a book for anyone interested in the Russian soul.