Marina Warner in the London Review of Books:
Dubravka Ugrešić’s Baba Yaga Laid an Egg is the latest, most inventive and most substantial volume in Canongate’s series of revisioned myths. The first was Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, a harsh retelling in Penelope’s voice of the concluding scenes of the Odyssey. With her own special bite, Atwood singles out for dramatic treatment the girls who worked in the palace and fraternised with Penelope’s suitors; she reminds us how pitilessly Odysseus orders them to be hanged, every one. The resonances with contemporary matters, which this series of books aims to stir, are powerful in this new handmaid’s tale. Karen Armstrong opened the series with an introduction that stressed myth’s archaic origins and links to religion and ritual, to national or tribal identity. This is the ontological version of myth, which assumes that the stories connect to a metaphysical belief system that maps onto a culture’s history and ethics.
But, to borrow Christopher Warnes’s contrast between ontology and irreverence in his Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel,[*] the approach of contemporary retellers of myths, including Ugrešić, makes clear that the readers they have in mind aren’t concerned with sacred matters and are impatient with spiritual meaning. These writers have adopted a looser, secular conception of myth, which flattens hierarchies between faith and superstition, and doesn’t discriminate, as a Victorian anthropologist would have done, between high and low culture, between stories about gods, which are rooted in belief and enacted through ritual, and tales of goblins and fairies and witches, told to raise shivers of pleasurable fear on a dark winter night. By uncoupling itself from belief, the vision of myth/fairy tale can be angled more sharply towards other tasks.