Tatyana Tolstaya Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

During the late 1980’s Tatyana Tolstaya (tohl-STI-yah) came to be considered one of the greatest talents in Russian literature. She and her six siblings, all of whom grew up with unusual privileges for the time, were grandchildren of the historical novelist Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoy, himself a relative of Leo Tolstoy. Tolstaya’s other grandfather was Mikhail Lozinskii, a minor poet and well-known translator.

Tolstaya came of age during the period in the Soviet Union that came to be referred to as “the stagnation,” years during the Brezhnev era that show remarkably little original prose literature. Many of the more interesting writers, among them Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sinyavsky, and Vasily Aksyonov had already left the country. Others, including Yuri Trifonov and Lidia Chukovskaya, who never left the Soviet Union, were also out of the picture, due to either death or the lack of publishing opportunities. The impoverished monumentalism of the official genre of Socialist Realism had reached its nadir.

After Leonid Brezhnev’s death in 1982 a liberalizing atmosphere began that eventually culminated with the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 and the period called glasnost, a reference to the opening of the closed, controlled society created by Soviet socialism. It is not coincidental that Tatyana Tolstaya began writing at about this time. In 1983 came the publication of her first story, “Kleem i nozhnitsami” (with glue and scissors), which set the stage for such later stories as “On the Golden Porch.”

The period of openness brought with it the...

(The entire section is 658 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Tatyana Tolstaya was born in Leningrad, in the U.S.S.R., on May 3, 1951, the daughter of Nikita Tolstoy, a professor of physics, and Natalia Lozinskaya. Her great-granduncle was the writer Leo Tolstoy, and her grandfather, also a writer, was Alexei Tolstoy. Tolstaya was graduated from Leningrad State University in 1974 with a degree in languages and literatures. She worked as a junior editor in the Oriental literature department of a publishing house in Moscow and later held various positions in American universities, including the University of Richmond, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Skidmore College, and Princeton University. In May, 1974, she married Andrei Lebedev, a professor of philology; they settled in Moscow with their two sons. In the early 1990’s they moved to the United States, where they gained permission to reside. Her short stories have been published in several Soviet journals as well as in The New Yorker.


(Short Stories for Students)

Tatyana Tolstaya was born May 3, 1951, in Leningrad, U.S.S.R. (now St. Petersburg, Russia). As the great-grandniece of the Russian author Leo...

(The entire section is 350 words.)