Dubravka Ugrešić finds feminist mettle in an Eastern European witch
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (Myths)
by Dubravka Ugresic
translation by Ellen Elias-Bursac
$23.00 List Price
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić is on the simplest level about the adventures of four old hags, plus their families and friends, adventures seen through the palimpsest narration of ur-witch Baba Yaga—the greatest hag of ’em all. I don’t use the word hag impudently here. The author not only invites the term; in this strange and wonderful book, she owns it.
Divided into three parts, the book begins with a mundane tale about a difficult mother-daughter relationship and gradually hints at something eerie hidden in the folds of its plain skirt. The story is located in Zagreb, which, we learn from the daughter (who is the narrator and happens to be an author), is suffering a plague of birds gone wild, taking over parks, subway stations, and restaurants. This coincides with the mother’s mind gone wild from breast cancer spread to the brain, resulting in tragicomic mental confusion, scrambled speech, compensatory rigidity, and pointless territorial wars with her daughter over cupboards, pictures, food, and clothes. Then there are the usual indignities—incontinence, lost beauty, and social invisibility.
Wanting to help, the daughter makes a trip to her mother’s childhood home in Bulgaria, in order to take photographs so that Mom might have one more look at the place. Here she meets a weird and annoying young woman anagrammatically named Aba Bagay (hint, hint), a folklorist and over-enthusiastic fan of the author’s books who has also managed to insert herself into the mother’s affections. Although Bagay is supposedly in town to visit friends, she follows the author
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