Peering into The Russian Soul

SLEEPWALKER IN A FOG by Tatyana Tolstaya

Translated by Jamey Gambrell; Knopf; 192 pages; $19

The people of what is still the largest country on earth are playing Russian roulette with history, producing a dizzying rush of events that defy comprehension. Tatyana Tolstaya, the great-grandniece of Leo Tolstoy, helps us make human sense of the game and the gamblers.

Tolstaya's eight stories, while never more than obliquely political, illustrate the forces that have gnawed away the structure of the world she describes. At a high school reunion, a fat and happy apparatchik sweeps up in his limo to be greeted with...

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