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Baba Yaga Laid An Egg [Paperback]

Dubravka Ugresic
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

June 22 2010 Myths
Baba Yaga is an old hag who lives in a house built on chicken legs and kidnaps small children. She is one of the most pervasive and powerful creatures in all mythology. She appears in many forms: as Pupa, a tricksy, cantankerous old woman who keeps her legs tucked into a huge furry boot; as a trio of mischievous elderly women who embark on the trip of a lifetime to a hotel spa; and as a villainous flock of ravens, black hens and magpies infected with the H5N1 virus. But what story does Baba Yaga have to tell us today? This is a quizzical tale about one of the most pervasive and poerful creatures in all mythology, and an extraordinay yarn of identity, secrets, storytelling and love.

Product Details

Product Description


'Ugresic's retelling may be blisteringly postmodern in its execution but at its heart is a human warmth and even a silliness that infuses it with the sweet magic of storytelling.' The Times

About the Author

Dubravka Ugresic was born in 1949 in Yugoslavia. She has published both novels and books of essays. Her books have been translated into more then twenty languages and she has received several major European literary awards. She is now based in Amsterdam.

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3.0 out of 5 stars Baba Yaga Laid an Egg Feb. 6 2011
By Megan
I love the idea of the myth series. Really enjoyed the end of the book explaining all the different aspects of the baba yaga myth - interesting.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Old Witch! April 26 2010
By Larissa - Published on
Once you notice them, old women are everywhere...

And so too are the starlings to my mothers great dismay. The noise is bad enough, but the mess they make would drive my mother crazy. She could not stand anything unclean or untidy in her home. But cleanliness was not her only battle, she was losing her words and becoming mixed up from Alzheimer's.

At the Grand Hotel three old women are checking in, how long they stay is up to fate. The oldest is confined to a wheelchair, wearing a single large boot with both legs tucked inside. The next is an exceptionally tall woman who seems to always carry a breeze about her; she also carries a string of dead husbands behind her. The last is a short grey haired woman with big bosoms and an equally big heart.

But what has any of this to do with Baba Yaga, a witch who flies about in a mortar, all but blind with only her great sense of smell to lead her as she moves about the world for good deeds or ill, making mischief at her will. As a woman of great power, Baba Yaga has the ability to alter her size or her shape, often taking the form of a bird. And isn't it birds who lay eggs...

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg is an utterly unique story retelling the myth of Baba Yaga in a distinctive style that is free of traditional form. The story of Baba Yaga is a story of women; mothers, daughters and lovers.

Traditionally Baba Yaga is an old woman so it is no surprise that the leading characters here are themselves old woman. But it is not just ageing that is central to the issues in this book but also femininity and identity that is questioned. A story recommended only for those who are willing to put in the effort to get to know this old and startling witch known as Baba Yaga.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baba Yagas of the World, Unite! May 3 2012
By Sofia Samatar - Published on
"If there was something I could not abide, it was folklore and the people who studied folklore."

So declares the narrator of the first section of Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, Dubravka Ugresic's tough and witty novel on the theme of the famous witch. This narrator has traveled from Zagreb to Varna, her ageing mother's home town, and is supposed to bring home pictures. She's depressed by the city, which she knew as a teenager before the war but can no longer recognize, and by an annoying friend of her mother's who won't leave her alone--a young woman who's just received her PhD in folklore. Fairytales, the narrator believes, miss the point: domestic folklorists are "generally closet nationalists," while foreign ones exploit war zones, enthusiastically studying the "new" folklore of hatred. The victims of that hatred are "of little interest to anyone."

The narrator of this first part of the three-part novel is prickly, impatient, caustic--and right. There is something syrupy about the study of folklore. The brilliance of the novel lies in the way it rescues Baba Yaga from the syrup. Ugresic explores Baba Yaga's intractability, foulness and grandeur, uncovers her divine origins, refigures her as a radical "dissident," and above all makes her speak for those "of little interest to anyone"--old women.

Although there is overlap between them, each of the three sections of the book has its own flavor and set of preoccupations (and, in a genius move, its own translator). Part One stars our no-nonsense narrator and her wonderful, exasperating mother, who suffers from mild dementia. Part Two has a lighter tone, and is set at a hotel where three old women, including the mother from Part One, have gone for a holiday. This section reads most like a fairytale, featuring a casino windfall, a melancholy masseur with a perpetual erection, a grandchild who pops up as suddenly as Thumbelina, and a death by golf ball. Despite its exuberance, this section resists becoming sentimental or cute; it's here, where female old age is seen through the eyes of elderly women, that the humor is at its most lacerating. Here's Beba, the mother from Part One, on the subject:

"On the other hand, what is left for women when they stumble into old age? One rarely sees those few fortunate ones with übermensch genes, such as that crone of Hitler's, Leni Riefenstahl, who lived to be a hundred and one, and showed everyone the meaning of 'the triumph of the will'!... [M]ost are left with the 'old-lady in good-health look.' These are desexualised old hags with short, masculine haircuts, dressed in light-coloured windcheaters and pants, not differentiated in any way from their male contemporaries, and noticed only when they are in a group."

Part Three, written by the folklorist from Part One, is a delicious catalog of Baba Yaga lore, which many people on Amazon and Goodreads seem to find irritating and/or dull. I SO DISAGREE. Ok, it's a bit arch at times (those references to "your author," who is the author of the first two parts of the book, who may be Ugresic or another character, nudge-wink-pomo-shenanigans), but it's also packed with mystery, dazzling and terrifying images, brutal history, enticing snippets of stories, and a vibrant feminist politics. For me, it's an essential part of the novel. Like the three old women, Beba, Pupa and Kukla, the three sections of this book need each other.

Baba Yagas of the World, Unite!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A read that shouldn't be overlooked May 13 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
There is much to be drawn from the story of a resourceful witch. "Baba Yaga Laid an Egg" is a collection of short stories from Dubravka Ugresic, as she tells the tales of four modern Eastern European women as they make their way through the world, using the Slavic myth of Baba Yaga as the foundation for these tales. An original blend of mythology and modern fiction, "Baba Yaga Laid an Egg" is a read that shouldn't be overlooked.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Baba Yaga Laid An Egg May 23 2010
By Miriam Sagan - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Baba Yaga Laid An Egg by Dubravka Ugresic

"In the absence of all ideologies, the only refuge that remains for the human imagination is the body."

This book was recommended to me because of course I love (and fear) Baba Yaga. It is part of series in which authors were asked to write based on an ancient myth. This is a post modernist deconstruction of the Slavic witch, by turns amusing, irritating, confusing, and illuminating. As the book says "...while Baba Yaga may not be Oprah Winfrey or Princess Dina, she isn't a completely obscure mythical nonentity either."
I don't know how Baba Yaga came into my childhood. No doubt through books of Russian fairy tales, and the realization that my grandparents were Russian, if Jews (all the more reason to fear her oven.)
This novel is set after the civil wars in the Balkans, after the collapse of the Soviets, after the break up of Yugoslavia. An author takes care of her dying mother and fulfills her wish to travel to Bulgaria, a young graduate student type dogs her steps, a tale within a tale presents three very old women at a spa/casino, and at the end there is a fake/real critical look at all the stories, plus a huge overview of Baba Yaga in numerous mythologies. It is perhaps a bit much, self-conscious, but actually quite satisfying.
It isn't easy to meet a witch and live to tell the tale.

For reviews by Miriam Sagan visit Miriam's Well [...]
4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative novel by Croatian woman novelist who knows the Slavic world Nov. 13 2013
By lascaux - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's lively and original, it's different, there's much imagination and humour, the places are interesting to someone from the west of Europe and no doubt America too, the translation reads well. I was surprised by the move from the first part to the next part, a big change in point of view. And then the last part which i am reading now.
I came to the novel via the appendix to the book 'Russian Magic Tales' whose author i looked up. On her site i read a strong invitation to read this novel. I was able to download it on Kindle and start reading. ( I enjoy both paper and kindle).
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