Celebrated for the wit of her satirical sketches, Teffi was also a writer of uncommon sensitivity, capable of plumbing the darker aspects of human psychology while retaining the signature grace of her style. The stories collected here share spiritual and supernatural themes, drawing from the provincial Russia of Teffi’s youth to depict communities where Orthodox Christianity coexists with the shapeshifters and house spirits of ancient folk belief.
A young girl, haunted by the sinister sound of a church bell, resolves to become a saint. A reluctant participant on a mass pilgrimage to the Solovetsky islands has a shatteringly profound experience. A young married couple’s relationship becomes strained as they each nurse the unspoken fear that their maid is a witch. By turns playful and profound, drily sceptical and solemn, these tales of other worlds precisely illuminate human desires, fears and failings.