Why do Russian literary creations, from Gogol’s promenading nose to Bulgakov’s talking cat, hold such a captivating and enigmatic place among the classics of world literature? Perhaps the answer lies with the old woman who haunts Russian fairy tales. “If people are too inquisitive,” says Baba Yaga to her visitor, “I eat them.” This abrupt admonition, like many of the jarring oneliners in Robert Chandler’s new collection of Russian magic tales, at once surprises and perplexes, inviting us into a world where logic and understanding must yield to imagination. Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov is full of bears who force children to play blind man’s buff, livestock who give birth to human heroes, and talking gates. Like all folk tales, these stories contain moral elements (humility is rewarded, vanity is punished), but they are worth retelling for their delightful absurdities.
more from Amelia Glaser at the TLS here.