Part of the Canongate myth series, this book ticked so many boxes for me and yet for some reason I’m struggling to pin it down. Still I’m going to try because I found it both a great read and deeply invigorating – I came out of it fizzing with ideas. The box ticking comes from the myth element, myths, legends, fairytales, folklore – it all fascinates me, and Baba Yaga is a particularly intriguing figure. (Just in case she’s new to you Baba Yaga is a hag who lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs by the edge of the forest. Sometimes she helps travellers but more often she entraps them, especially girls. She travels by flying through the air in a mortar steered by a pestle wiping out her traces with a broom. She may or may not eat children).
All of that is well within my comfort zone, but reading an author I know nothing about, whose (indrawn breath) contemporary – well it’s not something I do a lot of, although there are a few more in the Canongate series that I’m adding to my wish list (how amazon must love me). I might even take a chance on another of Ugresic’s books because this one reminded me irresistibly of Angela Carter and I’d like to know if that’s specific to this book because of its explicit basis in myth, or if it’s a shared quality between the two writers. It’s the way that Ugresic plays with reality that reminds me of Carter; things seem real enough and then they become fantastic, strange, worrying, and not quite real at all.
I should also say that this is the second book in a row (after Memento Mori) that’s dealt with the extremes of old age and it occurs to me that the very end of life when neither body or mind works quite as it used to, or quite as you might like it to then things might well be strange, worrying and not quite real.
“Beba sat in the bath wrapped in lacey foam. She could not remember the last time anyone had treated her with greater warmth or tenderness than this hotel bath. This was the kind of painful realisation that drives the more sensitive to put a bullet in their temple, or at least to look around to see where they might attach an adequately strong noose.”