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These stories conjure a vanished Russia, where Orthodox Christianity coexists with the shapeshifters and house spirits of ancient folk belief. Celebrated for her sublime wit and graceful style, Teffi here plumbs the darker aspects of psychology, infusing tales of domestic conflict with the occult spirituality that thrived in the country of her youth.
A young girl, haunted by the sinister sound of a church bell, resolves to become first a brigand, then a saint. A reluctant participant in a pilgrimage to the Solovetsky Islands has a shatteringly profound experience. A recently married couple’s relationship becomes strained as they each silently nurse the fear that their maid is a witch. By turns playful and profound, solemn and drily sceptical, these tales of other worlds precisely illuminate human desires, fears and failings.