New Finds

Which Witch?

Croatian writer Dubravka UgreŇ°i? reshapes a myth, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, for our time.

Book Cover Since 2005, Scottish publisher Canongate has been building The Myths, a series of books matching well-regarded authors from all over the globe—Margaret Atwood, Karen Armstrong, A.S. Byatt, David Grossman, Milton Hatoum, Natsuo Kirino, Alexander McCall Smith, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Victor Pelevin, Ali Smith, Su Tong, Salley Vickers, Jeanette Winterson, Phillip Pullman—with myths and folktales. The authors reiterate and reshape these stories with a contemporary slant or feeling while retaining the essential components, which are an exploration of the things that go in to being human.

Dubravka Ugresic, born in Croatia (or the former Yugoslavia), is an accomplished journalist, essayist (Thank You for Not Reading, Nobody’s Home) and novelist (The Ministry of Pain) who has been widely translated into over 20 languages. Her contribution to the Myths, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (translated from Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac, Celia Hawkesworth, and Mark Thompson), takes a witch from Russian folklore who lives in a chicken-footed house and flies around kidnapping young children.

Ugresic retells this story, now set in modern Eastern Europe, through the lives of four women (one might be confused by Ugresic’s reference to only three characters in the accompanying video clip), all struggling to overcome forces that render them anonymous, almost invisible. Told with her characteristic dark humor (that seems to flow from the waters of certain Yugoslavian and Romanian precincts) and sharp intelligence, if you haven’t been acquainted with Ms. Ugresic previously, this book is a fine introduction to her manifold talents.
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