Two stories from Tatyana Tolstaya's Aetherial Worlds. The 18 stories are a blend of humor and poetry, exploring politics, identity, love, and loss.
“Aspic”This story originally appeared in The New Yorker
Truth be told, I’ve always been afraid of it, since childhood. It’s prepared not casually, or whenever the fancy strikes you, but most often for New Year’s Eve, in the heart of winter, in the shortest and most brutal days of December. Darkness comes early. There is a damp frost; you can see spiky halos around the street lamps. You have to breathe through your mittens. Your forehead aches from the cold, and your cheeks are numb. But, wouldn’t you know it, you still have to boil and chill the aspic—the name of the dish itself makes the temperature of your soul drop, and no thick gray goat-hair shawl will save you. It’s a special kind of religion, making the aspic. It’s a yearly sacrifice, though we don’t know to whom or for what. And what would happen if you didn’t make it is also a question mark.Read more: Literary Hub
But, for some reason, it must be done.