Lyudmila Petrushevskaya – There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby
Author: Lyudmila Petrushevskaya
After reading volumes of celebrated authors such as Nabokov, Chekov, and Tolstoy, you might find yourself involuntarily entrusting yourself to the dark waters of Russian literature.
After reading Lyudmila Petrushevskaya’s There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby, you can’t say that you didn’t know what you were getting yourself into. Once you finish, you’ll realize why the subtitle is “Scary fairy tales,” and not “From Russia with love.”
Petrushevskaya has the distinction of being one of Russia’s star contemporary writers. In this particular collection of short stories, she plays both doting godmother and psycho-killer babysitter as she spins tales that are by turns uplifting and discordant. She drags us into the undertow with ideas about suicide and miracles, allowing deliciously fleeting moments of a certain dry humor to interject itself from time to time. That dark sense of humor helps us forgive the truancy in My Love and sympathize with the insanity in There’s Someone in the House. In certain cases, it reminds you to breathe.
Some stories, perhaps due to the necessity of translation, seem almost like a recitation of some long-ago historical tall tale passed down through the generations. Others boldly ask for the complete suspension of your disbelief with cabbage-patch children and magical dancing twins. Nearly every tale in the collection is something of a ghost story, the spirits of the forgotten, lost, and unborn drifting in and out as natural as can be.
Petrushevskaya doesn’t ask for your permission, she simply divides her stories into four neat piles: Songs of the Eastern Slavs, Allegories, Requiems, and Fairy Tales.
If you have an interest in the macabre, then this is the book for you. If you aren’t afraid of having your world completely reordered with an entirely different set of rules to live by, even better. And if you think you’re a big tough guy, then consider it a challenge. You might not think The Black Coat is scary, but just wait until bedtime. Keep telling yourself, “It’s just a fairy tale. It’s just a fairy tale.” It might work.
Then again, it might not.
Get it on Amazon
By Stephanie Chan