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The New Adventures of Helen

The New Adventures of Helen

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By Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Translated by Jane Bugaeva

A new collection of adult fairy tales from New York Times-bestselling Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Russia’s greatest living absurdist and surrealist writer.

Publication Date: November 16, 2021

Paperback: 9781646051038
eBook: 9781646051045


“One of Russia’s best living writers . . . Her tales inhabit a borderline between this world and the next.” The New York Times

At first glance, the stories in The New Adventures of Helen seems simple, even child-like, but a deep reading reveals satire and darkness manifested through classic fairy tale tropes characteristically upended by Petrushevskaya. These “adult fairy tales” ask deep questions about gender, love, history, memory, and the future, taking place in times between history and the now. These stories, quirky but yet inspired by a confident hopefulness, will inspire and provoke English-speaking readers across the globe.


 “The stories in this morbid collection take place in vague time periods that could be the past, the present, the future, or all three. It has quite possibly, in my opinion, the most punk rock story ever written, ‘Queen Lir,’ in which, among other things, the queen hijacks a bus.” Fernando Flores, author of Valleyesque and Tears of the Truffle Pig

“[Petrushevskaya’s] style is a melange of acerbic wit, profound psychological insight, and brevity that’s perfect for our age of shrinking attention spans and proliferating tragedy.” Jennifer Kurdyla, Harvard Review

“...showcasing a different aspect of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s writing, The New Adventures of Helen: Magical Tales exhibits her pervasive poignancy and sardonic humor and is as compelling in its own way as her more serious, harder-hitting prose.” Yelena Furman, Los Angeles Review of Books

“In these tales, Petrushevskaya is bent on understanding why things go wrong, which is far more interesting than focusing on what goes right. The stories can be appalling, traumatic, even absurd, yet they have a deceptive lightness and simplicity, and they evoke a feeling of adventure. How Petrushevskaya manages to achieve that remains a mystery that must be part of the magic.” Katy Dycus, Necessary Fiction

"These imaginative stories entertain, and occasionally they edify as well." Publishers Weekly

Acclaim for Ludmilla Petrushevskaya:

“We are likely to hear a lot more of this woman. Some October, perhaps, from the Nobel Prize committee.” —The Nation
“One of Russia’s best living writers . . . Her tales inhabit a borderline between this world and the next.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Petrushevskaya, now seventy-six and finally attracting the readership she deserves, [has] a ringleader’s calm mastery of the absurd.” —The New Yorker
“Petrushevskaya writes instant classics.” —The Daily Beast
“Petrushevskaya is the Tolstoy of the communal kitchen. . . . She is not, like Tolstoy, writing of war, or, like Dostoevsky, writing of criminals on the street, or, like poet Anna Akhmatova or novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, noting the extreme suffering of those sent to the camps. Rather, she is bearing witness to the fight to survive the everyday. . . . [She is] dazzlingly talented and deeply empathetic.” —Slate
“This celebrated Russian author is so disquieting that long after Solzhenitsyn had been published in the Soviet Union, her fiction was banned—even though nothing about it screams ‘political’ or ‘dissident’ or anything else. It just screams.” —Elle
“Her suspenseful writing calls to mind the creepiness of Poe and the psychological acuity (and sly irony) of Chekhov.” —More
“Petrushevskaya’s fiction [offers] a glimpse of what it means to be a human being, living sometimes in bitter misery, sometimes in unexpected grace.” —Jenny Offill, The New York Times Book Review
“The fact that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is Russia’s premier writer of fiction today proves that the literary tradition that produced Dostoyevsky, Gogol, and Babel is alive and well.” —Taylor Antrim, The Daily Beast
“What distinguishes the author is her compression of language, her use of detail and her powerful visual sense.” —Time Out New York
“A master of the Russian short story.” —Olga Grushin, author of The Dream Life of Sukhanov
“There is no other writer who can blend the absurd and the real in such a scary, amazing and wonderful way.” —Lara Vapnyar, author of There Are Jews in My House
“One of the greatest writers in Russia today and a vital force in contemporary world literature.” —Ken Kalfus, author of A Disorder Peculiar to the Country
“A master of the short story form, a kindred spirit to writers like Angela Carter and Yumiko Kurahashi.” —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble, Magic for Beginners, and Stranger Things Happen
“In her best work Petrushevskaya steers a sure course between neutrally recording the degraded life of the Soviet-era urban underclass and ratcheting up the squalor of that life for the mere pleasure of it. She does so by the steadiness of her moral compass and the gaiety of her prose.” —J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

Biographical Note

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya was born in 1938 in Moscow, where she still lives. She is the author of more than fifteen collections of prose, including the New York Times-bestseller There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales (2009), which won a World Fantasy Award and was one of New York Magazine’s Ten Best Books of the Year and one of NPR’s Five Best Works of Foreign Fiction, and There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories (2013). A singular force in modern Russian fiction, she is also a playwright whose work has been staged by leading theater companies all over the world. In 2002 she received Russia’s most prestigious prize, the Triumph, for lifetime achievement.