I grew up listening to West African stories as deliciously weird as these ones, so once I perused my shelves and once again came across this collection by Petrushevskaya, I found myself interrupting my other reads, on a Sunday night, just to revisit these stories While I don't agree that the collection is a Halloween one, I find that it is daring in its simple majestical and mystical storytelling These stories include the strange, the surreal, the supernatural, the things that will have you shaking your head in disbelief, while also willing to suspend such disbeliefif only for a moment He discovered a little hole below his neck, like an extra eye, from which tears poured out Petrushevskaya takes the concept of short stories and makes it her own, which probably explains why, in official Soviet literature, she remained out of favor for years Her stories about the lives of women were said to be too dark, too direct, and too forbidding Yes, there is darkness and despair within these stories, there are illnesses and psychological disorders And yet there are also life lessons After all, does fiction not impart emotional truth? Petrushevskaya watched her husband die at the tender age of thirtytwo; he had been paralyzed the last six years of his life In stories like My Love and The Fountain House (two of my favorites), she explores death and disease and the effects they have on the mind Her endings are a strange mixture of satisfaction and confusion The beginnings, daring: There once lived a girl who was killed, then brought back to life Direct? She certainly is that If her stories were analyzed according to lawschool essay requirements, they would follow the repetition of the CRAC method: ConclusionRuleAnalysisConclusion In fact she is still banned from most Russian readers lists, they say, because it cannot be accepted that she existed so far outside the ordinary conventions of literary life…and has achieved classic stature.If anything, this makes me admire herThe father takes hold of his son's sleeve, begins to scream, and wakes up in the United States, in the form of an unhappy immigrant named Grisha, who's been abandoned by his hardworking wife six months after they arrived in the States. The literary event of Halloween: a book of otherworldly power from Russia's preeminent contemporary fiction writerVanishings and apparitions, nightmares and twists of fate, mysterious ailments and supernatural interventions haunt these stories by the Russian master Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, heir to the spellbinding tradition of Gogol and Poe Blending the miraculous with the macabre, and leavened by a mischievous gallows humor, these bewitching tales are like nothing being written in Russiaor anywhere else in the worldtoday Dark and haunting, Petrushevskaya's stories have a deeper meaning to them than you would think at first glance They might start off as fairy tales, There once lived , but they soon turn lessthanordinary There is this strange and surreal feel to them, a certain otherworldly quality, bordering on the supernatural In them we encounter people struggling through poverty, war, diseases, sadness and death, often experienced through a parallel realm, called Orchards of Unusual Possibilities, sort of an Underworld Although some are pretty short, they all left their mark.The ones that really stood out to me are 'Revenge' in which the woman of the title tried to kill her neighbour's baby, 'The Cabbagepatch Mother' who keeps herself busy with a tiny little daughter the size of a droplet, and 'Marilena's Secret' where Marilena knows a secret or two.With this book I conclude the May Short Story Month Marathon, a personal challenge during which Alex and I went through our short story collection in this last week of May I added a little twist to it by reading books by authors I haven't read from before. This was actually a pretty big disappointment It totally sounded like the kind of book I would love (scary Russian fairytales! Yes, please!) Sadly however, the stories got pretty repetitive after a while, it was written in a very cold and distant way throughout and thus, I never felt any sort of connection to any of the characters Consequently, I was also never actually truly scared by what happened, even though some weird sh*t happens in this book! Just not the kind of weird sh*t I could grasp or appreciate The only stories that stood out to me in some way were the title story (perfectly dark and twisted), and the very last story, The Black Coat (the only story that had any emotional impact on me). Now that's a puzzling title, who almost screams: Marketing plans!, because there is no story with such title in this collection There is one story with the idea, yes, but the title is less shocking andevocative Revenge I've learnt my lesson, in that I'll be suspicious of books with flashy titles from now on The title of another translation of her stories is even flashier: There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself C'mon! The stories are grouped in four sections, according to themes and publication in Russia Most of them are dark and surreal, with women and men on the brink of despair Some characters are struggling between life and death, others are already dead Some undergo mystical experiences, others are propelled into a parallel universe, a secondary reality which Petrushevskaya calls the Orchard of Unusual Possibilities The harsh realities of living conditions under Soviet regime were no surprise, since I've spent my childhood in a communist country Their novelty aspect was wasted on me; I don't think I even noticed the crammed apartments, the lack of food and other peculiarities presented in these stories, which could prompt other readers from the West to exclaim 'Oh, how could those poor people live like that?' It seems we were able to live and survive, after all Despite my complaints below, I did find a couple of really good stories now and then, especially in the last section, “Fairy Tales”, which redeemed the entire collection: From Songs of the Eastern Slavs: RevengeFrom Allegories: Hygiene, The New Robinson CrusoesFrom Requiems: The Fountain House, Two Kingdoms, There’s Someone in the HouseFrom Fairy Tales: The Cabbagepatch Mother, Marilena’s Secret, The Black Coat (my favorite)My biggest complaint with these short stories is that a lot of them are way too short As in one page short, in some cases After finishing a couple of stories, I was quite puzzled by their shortness and thought my copy was defective Moreover, the language seemed strange, like I was reading a résumé 'There must be something , the book I have is definitely faulty', I thought I checked Goodreads and I was relieved to find the same complaints in a couple of reviews Now, the translators say that these stories are so short because they are told in the manner of urban folk tales Like the ones you hear spoken in whispers, with a mysterious air, at camp fires or in grandmother's back yard This might explain their length, but couldn't prevent my dissatisfaction Another complaint is that most stories are predictable After reading one or two, I started to prophetize: 'Oh, this guy is a ghost', 'Ok, this woman is going to die' and so on Not to mention that the stories are not scary at all I couldn't have beenunflinching or composed as I was with these stories The suspense and final revelation that are talked about didn't work for me.It is said that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya writes in the tradition of Gogol and Poe; I don't remember any of their stories, but I hope they don't have the same rudimentary feeling about them.There are good things about the stories, though, namely the ideas behind them Some are really good and to my knowledge even original, and I'll probably remember them for quite a while I was frustrated that these ideas, which had a lot of potential, were not developed into larger narratives And again, the language Sometimes it was really unappealing, but it might be the fault of translation (although I doubt that) Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's life could become an interesting story in itself: the death of her first husband (only 32 years old) prompted a risky trip to Lithuania, where she wanted to visit Thomas Mann's summer house but also promote her writing, which was banned in Russia In spite of the freedom she tasted there, she had to return because of her child Her writing was far from being political explicit, yet it was not welcomed in Russia because it was dark and full of despair After Soviet Union began to fall apart, some writers who had never been allowed in print before including Ludmilla Petrushevskaya began to be published She became a major figure of contemporary Russian literature, although she remains controversial. love love love The story referred to in the title is the one called Revenge It's aptly titled because it is about relationships.I love this book.I've only read one short story by Petrushevskaya in another collection I picked this up over the weekend at a bookstore I had heard good things about it.It's nice to know that sometimes the hype is correct.This book is a collection of Petrushevskaya'sfairy tale genre fiction, so fantasy, magic realism, and fairy tale It is split into four different sections Some tales are scary and all are touching.The tales mostly focus on women and those that don't tend to focus on fathers While on the surface, the stories appear to be ghost stories or fantasy, there are deeper currents that would seem to indicate why her writing wasn't published much under communism.It's hard to make an aboslute favorite There is a beautiful story about a girl found in a cabbage leaf and how the woman who finds her becomes a mother, there is an equally haunting story about a father trying to say good bye to his son before the son leaves for the army The title story is shocking, but not in the way the title on the book cover suggests In fact, it is farpowerful than the title suggests There is a wonderfully funny story about twin dancers who turn into a fat lady.In some ways, the last story, The Black Coat, is, perhaps, the most emotionally impacting To say anythingthan that would be to spoil it, and that would be wrong.The blurb on the back on the back compares Petrushevskaya to Gogol and Poe I haven't read much Gogol, so I'm not going to make that comparsion While I can see why some might compare to her Poe, she is closer in style to Angela Carter, though in translation her language isfluid,everyday Her tone, at times, ishumorous, so the Carter comparsion doesn't quite fit She reminds me of Carter, Byatt, and Terry Pratchett, like the three of them had a Russian kid. Some of these are better than others Hygiene, The New Robinson Crusoes, The God Poseidon, and Marilena's Secret were the best in my opinion. If you like your short stories mostly concise and very very psychologically dark, this collection is for you I thoroughly enjoyed them Scary Fairy Tales should be a genre Delightfully unsettling. We in the West love to stare at Russia through our screens maybe we watch any of the various collections of Russian news clips that reveal what we presume to be a nation of tracksuited and vodkasoaked toxic males and leggy Slavic beauties in fiveinch stilettos and crazy driving and Putinist operatives.It's a vision that as far as I can tell is not 100 percent wrong, but it belies the fact that this all comes from something much darker and older And this is what Petrushevskaya taps into all of the stuff behind the industrial malaise of modern Russia, all of the tales of dybbuks and Baba Yaga and forest spirits that underlie everything, and it's fucking magnificent.