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May 23, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

SLEEPWALKER IN A FOG by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell (Vintage: $10; 192 pp.). Tatyana Tolstaya's luminous stories evoke the deeper tensions and sorrows of the lives Drakulic describes. Haunted by his own ineptitude, Denisov, the protagonist of the title story, rips the "useless" continent of Australia from the map in a typically ineffectual attempt at catharsis. The poignant "Most Beloved" intertwines the fate of a crumbling country house with the unhappy life of a faded pedagogue, whom everyone loves but prefers to avoid. Zhenechka has "a dry, prim, pedagogical mouth, which with age acquired that particular array of surrounding wrinkles that unmistakably indicates honesty, goodness, and simplicity--all those tiresome, well-meant, inarguable truths that its owner hastens to share with you." Tolstaya's fiction offers memorable depictions of love in a repressive society, where privacy is a precious commodity.

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