Friday, August 12, 2016

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, by Dubravka Ugrešić

I couldn't resist this title!  I've had it on the pile for a little while now, and the Women in Translation event this month gave me an opportunity to pick it up.  It's post-modern and odd, not exactly a reworking of the Baba Yaga stories, but more finding her in modern life--an unusual story about women getting old.  There are three distinct parts, which makes it not quite a novel to my mind. 

The first part is narrated by an unnamed writer/academic whose elderly mother just wants to die, but meanwhile keeps her apartment obsessively clean.  The writer goes to Bulgaria (her mother's birthplace) to take photos, but a younger academic, Aba, attaches herself and just won't leave.

Then we go to a spa, where three older ladies have come for a vacation.  Pupa is very elderly and keeps her feet in a fur boot for warmth.  Beba works in a hospital and misses her son, and Kukla is a serial widow who secretly writes.  Their lives are accidentally and completely changed during their visit.

And then the third part of the book consists of a long letter by Aba, now a professor specializing in folklore, giving a Baba Yaga primer and analyzing the first two stories in light of Baba Yaga legends!  Not only that, her full name is Aba Bagay.  So that was odd.

Dubravka Ugrešić is Croatian, or post-Yugoslavian possibly; when the war broke out, she was vocally opposed to nationalism and wound up having to leave the country.  She lives in Amsterdam now, and writes post-modern things and criticism.

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg is part of the Canongate "Myths" project, a long-term endeavor of publishing modern reworkings of ancient myths.  Several of the titles on the list will be familiar, but it looks like 2011 was the last time they published a title.

3 comments:

Kailana said...

This has been on my TBR for so long. I really need to get to it!

Sara said...

I'm so excited to see a review of Ugrešić's writing! She's one of my favourite authors. I haven't read Baba Yaga yet, but I really like her postmodern approach to writing. One of her earlier novels (I think it was translated into English as 'Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life') uses really clever textual methods to approach the story from a feminist, postmodern stance.

Her national affiliation is definitely tricky. I think she purposefully avoids labelling herself. She has referred to post-Yugoslavism a few times, but I read an interview once where she suggested that it was a joke more than anything else.

Jean said...

Good to know! She's new to me, and I'd love to read more.