Tatyana Tolstaya

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Tatyana Tolstaya
BornTatyana Nikitichna Tolstaya
(1951-05-03) 3 May 1951 (age 70)
Leningrad, USSR (now Saint Petersburg, Russia)
OccupationWriter, TV host, publicist, novelist, essayist
Alma materSaint Petersburg State University

Tatyana Nikitichna Tolstaya (Russian: Татьяна Никитична Толстая; born 3 May 1951) is a Russian writer, TV host, publicist, novelist, and essayist from the Tolstoy family, known for her fiction and "acerbic essays on contemporary Russian life".[1]


Tolstaya was born in Leningrad into a family of writers. Her paternal grandfather, Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoy, was a pioneering science fiction writer, and the son of Count Nikolay Alexandrovich Tolstoy (1849–1900) and Alexandra Leontievna Turgeneva (1854–1906), a relative of Decembrist Nikolay Turgenev and the writer Ivan Turgenev. Tolstaya's paternal grandmother was the poet Natalia Krandievskaya. Mikhail Lozinsky (1886-1955), her maternal grandfather, was a literary translator renowned for his translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy. Tolstaya's sister, Natalia was a writer as well. Her son, Artemy Lebedev, is the founder-owner of Art. Lebedev Studio, a Russian web design firm.[2]

Life and work[edit]

Tolstaya received her education at the department of classical philology of the Leningrad State University. She moved to Moscow in the early 1980s and started working in the Nauka publishing house.[citation needed]

From right: Tatyana Tolstaya; Mark Strand; Susan Sontag; Richard Locke, chairman of the School of the Arts Writing Division, and Derek Walcott

Her first short story, "On the Golden Porch" (На золотом крыльце сидели), appeared in Avrora magazine in 1983 and marked the start of Tolstaya's literary career, and her story collection of the same name established Tolstaya as one of the foremost writers of the perestroika and post-Soviet period. As Michiko Kakutani writes, "one can find echoes...of her great-granduncle Leo Tolstoy's work - his love of nature, his psychological insight, his attention to the details of everyday life".[3] But "her luminous, haunting stories most insistently recall the work of Chekhov, mapping characters' inner lives and unfulfilled dreams with uncommon sympathy and insight", and also display "the author's Nabokovian love of language and her affinity for strange excursions into the surreal, reminiscent of Bulgakov and Gogol."[4]

She spent much of the late Eighties and Nineties living in the United States and teaching at several universities.[5] Her novel The Slynx (Кысь Kys, 2000) is a dystopian vision of post-nuclear Russian life in what was once (now forgotten) Moscow, presenting a negative Bildungsroman that in part confronts "disappointments of post-Soviet Russian political and social life".[6] It has been described as "an account of a degraded world that is full of echoes of the sublime literature of Russia’s past; a grinning portrait of human inhumanity; a tribute to art in both its sovereignty and its helplessness; a vision of the past as the future in which the future is now".[7] For the twelve years between 2002 and 2014, Tolstaya co-hosted a Russian cultural television programme, The School for Scandal (Школа злословия, named after play by Richard Sheridan), on which she conducted interviews with diverse representatives of contemporary Russian culture and politics.[8]


Books translated into English[edit]

  • Tolstaya, Tatyana (1989). On the golden porch. Translated by Antonina W. Bouis. New York: Knopf.
  • — (1990) [1989]. On the golden porch. Reprint. Translated by Antonina W. Bouis. New York: Vintage.
  • — (1990) [1989]. On the golden porch and other stories. Reprint. Translated by Antonina W. Bouis. Penguin.
  • Sleepwalker in a Fog, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1991, then Vintage Books, 1993; ISBN 0-679-73063-X
  • Pushkin's Children: Writings on Russia and Russians. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin. 2003. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  • The Slynx. New York: New York Review of Books Classics. 2003. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  • White Walls. New York: New York Review of Books Classics. 2007. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  • Aetherial Worlds: Stories. Translated by Anya Migdal. New York: Knopf. 2018. ISBN 978-1524732776.

Selected shorter fiction[edit]

  • Tolstaya, Tatyana (8 January 1990). "The Poet and the Muse". Fiction. The New Yorker.
  • Tolstaya, Tatyana (8 October 1990). Translated by Jamey Gambrell. "Heavenly Flame". Fiction. The New Yorker.
  • Tolstaya, Tatyana (4 March 1991). Translated by Jamey Gambrell. "Most Beloved". Fiction. The New Yorker.
  • Tolstaya, Tatyana (Spring 1991). "Night". Fiction. The Paris Review. 118.
  • Tolstaya, Tatyana (17 January 2000). Translated by Jamey Gambrell. "White Walls". Fiction. The New Yorker.
  • Tolstaya, Tatyana (12 March 2007). Translated by Jamey Gambrell. "See the Other Side". Fiction. The New Yorker. 83. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  • Tolstaya, Tatyana (18 January 2016). Translated by Anya Migdal. "Aspic". Fiction. The New Yorker. 92. Retrieved 24 March 2017.

Essays and reporting[edit]


  1. ^ [1], nyrb.com, 24 March 2017.
  2. ^ Ratings of top 100 leading Web design firms in Russia −2013 (in Russian) Google translation
  3. ^ [2], nytimes.com, 25 Apr 1989.
  4. ^ [3], nytimes.com, 11 Feb 2003.
  5. ^ [4], nyrb.com, 22 March 2017.
  6. ^ [5], Encyclopedia of Russian History, encyclopedia.com, 24 March 2017, 13 May 2015.
  7. ^ [6], nyrb.com, The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell.
  8. ^ Profile, rbth.com, 13 May 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hamilton, Denise (12 May 1992). "A Literary Heiress". Cultural Comment. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  • Goscilo, Helena. 1996. The Explosive World of Tatyana N. Tolstaya's Fiction. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

External links[edit]