Tatjana Tolstaja was born in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Russia, in 1951. She studied Classical Philology in Leningrad. Thereafter she briefly worked as an editor before going to Moscow to work as an author. Her first collection of stories (1987; German “Stelldichein mit einem Vogel,” 1989) was a great literary success which turned her into the Soviet Union’s most well-known author overnight. In 1989 she left Moscow and went to the U.S. In the 90s she taught at Princeton University and at Skidmore College, both in New Jersey, while writing numerous essays on Russian literature and politics for magazines like “The New York Review of Books.” Some of the essays were critical, others humorous. Twenty of these essayistic texts were published in the U.S. under the title “Pushkin’s Children. Writings on Russia and Russians” in 2003. In 2000 she returned to Russia. Within a month she completed her first novel “Kys,” which she had already started to work on 14 years earlier in 1986.
In “Kys” Tatjana Tolstaja sketches the dismal, bizarre world of a future Russia. This realm is ruled by a dictator and populated by misshapen people and mutations, who live in fear of the cruel creature Kys. Owning books is not allowed, but for the protagonist Benedikt reading is a drug. Tolstaja unfolds the fairytale-like magic of her narrative technique, refers to Russian narrative traditions, plays with old Cyrillic letters, invents new words, indulges in literary allusions, and in addition to Gogol, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Pushkin also cites other great writers of world literature. “I incorporated the texts into my book which unconsciously came up while I was writing.”
In addition to “Kys” (2003) in German several books of stories have been published: “Stelldichein mit einem Vogel” (1989), “Sonja” (1991), and “Und es fiel ein Feuer vom Himmel” (1992). Not only as a writer and essayist does Tatjana Tolstaja comment critically and ironically on the state of her country but as an anchorwoman as well.
She lives in Moscow, New York, and St. Petersburg.
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