Other Worlds: Peasants, Pilgrims, Spirits, Saints

Teffi, edited and trans. from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler et al. New York Review Classics, $17.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-68137-539-7
Teffi (1872–1952), pseudonym of Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya, whose exile to Paris after the Bolshevik Revolution is documented in her memoir Memories, explores the psychological and spiritual lives of émigrés from that period. The characters in these 25 stories live in a world where spirits can protect or destroy and whose origins are found in Old Russian superstitions, legends, and folktales. People contend with hard lives in isolation, and there is always a lurking sense that nature itself is a living being that exacts revenge ("A Quiet Backwater," "Wild Evening"). Spirits turn into animal form to terrorize or lure their victims to death ("Vurdalak," "Bathhouse Devil"). Mystery is commonplace and inexplicable; peasants and saints alike struggle with mishaps and absurdities ("Wonder Worker," "Wolf Night"). In perhaps the collection's best story, "The Dog," a young man named Tolya vows to turn into a dog to protect a girl he is in love with whenever she calls for help. The uncanny but satisfying ending, featuring a violent Tolya in his new form, is characteristically Teffi. Shape-shifters, demons, spirits, and sorcerers are all brought convincingly to life in tales that bring fright and comfort. The author's fans will find this to be a delightful feast. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 03/25/2021
Release date: 04/20/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-1-68137-540-3
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