Aetherial Worlds: Stories

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Characters in flux pepper the pages of Russian writer Tatyana Tolstaya’s latest short story collection, Aetherial Worlds, the first collection to be translated into English in twenty years.

Fans of the austere and detailed writing of Chekhov, Gogol, and Tolstoy will feel right at home while reading Tolstaya’s eighteen stories. The dark humor and seemingly nonchalant approach to extramarital affairs, to personal crises, to murder, even, make the collection hard to read in one sitting. Much like the work of her predecessors, Tolstaya’s stories need room to breathe, and the reader needs some recovery time between each foray into unhappiness.

The opening story, “20/20,” sets the tone of the collection as it reveals the impulse to write in a character having recently undergone eye surgery. The protagonist requires total darkness to recover, and that idea is thematically carried throughout the collection: that, to truly become new or to change or to grow, there must be darkness, pain, and suffering.

Aetherial Worlds, the title story of the collection and the book’s longest story, is the most engaging in its depiction of a Russian protagonist attempting to find belonging in America. This happens through the purchase of a ramshackle house in need of much repair from a divorcing couple, the property itself the physical manifestation of everything that failed.

There are places in the text that feel a bit off, as though the translation from Russian to English resulted in some lost nuances. But, if you’re looking for an engaging, thought-provoking collection of stories that will feel both foreign and familiar, Aetherial Worlds is the book for you.


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Author Tatyana Tolstaya
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 256 pages
Publisher Knopf
Publish Date 2018-Mar-20
ISBN 9781524732776
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue July 2018
Category Poetry & Short Stories
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