By Suzanne Ruta
Updated January 31, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

Sleepwalker in a Fog

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The Soviet Union disintegrates; the ruble plummets. But the Russian language, ”so powerful and poisonous and yet loving and lithe,” thrives in Tolstaya’s stories in Sleepwalker in a Fog. Her subjects (as in the earlier collection On the Golden Porch) are loneliness, death, and oblivion. She defines them with a prose that is invigorating, precise, poetic, and animistic. Here’s a shabby communal apartment: ”Over the exit, rising like a plague cemetery up in arms, the black skulls of electric meters huddled together; as night fell the white stripes of their teeth, each row marked by a single bloody tooth, began madly spinning to the right.” The title story fuses Russia’s bitter past and chaotic present. A man in mid-life dreams of forgotten ancestors, plans a monument, and winds up involved in a humiliating barter for china cabinets. A Gogolian mini- masterpiece from a distant relative of Count Leo Tolstoy. A

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Sleepwalker in a Fog

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