Granddaughter of Russian classic author Alexei Tolstoy, writer Tatyana Tolstaya became TV show-woman

Tatyana Tolstay changed her image againg by becoming a TV show host.
In the 90s Russian public did not remember much prose writer Tatyana Tolstaya. She became famous in 1983 after publishing her first story “They were sitting on the gold porch”. Her brilliant writing style and new essays maintained her fame until 1988. Then the sarcastic granddaughter of classic author Alexei Tolstoy and translator of classic world literature masterpieces Mikhail Lozinsky left Russia and went to the USA to teach creative writing and Russian literature. For 10 years Russian public could only see from time to time articles and essays by Tolstaya in magazines and the Moscow News weekly newspaper. Sometimes her old stories were republished.

In 2000 Tolstaya finished her only novel “Kys”, and Podkova Publishing House published it. This was great success for the writer who had been working on the novel for 15 years. The novel not only became a bestseller, but also brought the writer the most expensive Russian Prize – 50,000 Triumph Prize of Logovaz auto dealer company. The publishers swiftly followed with printing two more books by Tolstay –“Day” and “Night” composed of all the texts she had written. Then they published book “Two” - collected stories by Tolstaya and her elder sister, philologist and expert on German literature Natalia Tolstaya. After that, book of collected stories and travel notes “Izyum” was published. Success was amazing, all mass media expressed delight about Tolstaya, and school literature teachers were going to name Tolstaya a classic author like her grandfather. However, Tolstaya “disappeared” again. This time she did not have to leave Russia, she was overshadowed by her new personality of a successful show-woman.

Inventor of feelings

No new text by Tolstaya has been published since 2001, all the published books of her collected stories differ only by name and the sequence of the stories in them. The old texts by Tolstay are constantly republished and sold well. Probably she is gaining more and more admirers of her talent. Tolstaya represents the unique example of long life in literature, and her stories written 20 years ago successfully compete with the variety of contemporary prose for women. This was predictable because Tolstaya was the founder of the prose for women in Russia.
Nowadays Russian prose for women has variety of genres, sometimes very unusual (such as the works by Andrey Gelasimov who successfully mastered “women’” genre). It is hard to believe that in the 80s nobody filled this niche. Uncomplicated sentimental novels by Victoria Tokareva (the only writer of this genre at that time) were not valued much by educated public, the stories by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya seemed asexual and cold, and the idea of the real “quality” prose bearing female outlook   seemed attractive, but unrealistic. For this reason new writer Tatyana Tolstaya from the family of long-standing writing traditions, the well and broadly educated person (she graduated from the Department of Philology of Leningrad University and worked at the Oriental Literature Department of Nauka Publishing House for 8 years), started a new stage in Russian literature.  

By poeticizing Soviet life routine, Tolstaya brought new feelings into the stale symbols and elaborated special female style developed later by Lyudmila Ulitskaya and Marina Vishnevetskaya, Svetlana Shenbrunn and Margarita Meklina.
Getting rid of female style

However, Tolstaya was not enjoying herself by the female game long. After laying the foundation for the new literature genre she soon lost interest to it, and then switched from fictionwriting to journalism. This was a temporary withdrawal: second Tolstaya’s coming into literature was as vivid as her first one. Meanwhile, the readers expecting the return of her characters they liked, were disappointed: long-awaited “Kys” had nothing in common with the works by Tolstaya of the 80s. It was different from the genre of the prose for women. The novel could be related to the genre of fantasy or anti-Utopia. It was “populated” with unusual characters-mutants and written with the strange archaic language having no analogies in contemporary literature.
By quitting her old style and themes Tolstaya lost a part of her former admirers, but gained plenty of new ones. The name of Tatyana Tolstaya was put in the row of the leading figures of the Russian fantasy genre such as the brothers Strugatskies, Mikhail Uspensky, Andrey Lazarchuk and others.
However, Tolstaya changed her image again. She became a TV show host.

Angry investigator

Tolstaya got used to public work for many years of teaching in the US and being the head of literature contest “Marvelous stories of money” arranged by Open Russia NGO and newspaper. However, the sphere of television was still inaccessible for Tolstaya. Therefore she loved the idea of TV critic Yuri Bogomolov to have a TV show with two hosts capable of bringing down the person they are interviewing. The writer especially liked appointing her friend, well-known reporter in movie circles reporter Dunya Smirnova, the second host for the show.  Smirnova is well-known by the scenario she wrote for movie “His wife’s diary” produced by Alexei Uchitel.  After a short preparation period show “Malignant Gossip School” broadcasting started on the Culture Channel in 2002. The first guests of the malignantly gossiping couple were Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Lyubov Sliska and writer Alexander Prokhanov. The first year of the show existence revealed success: last September the Panel of Russian TV Academy awarded the two anchors with the TAFI Prize in “The Best Talk Show” nomination. 

The couple has the following roles: pretty Dunya Smirnova pretends to be kind and lulls the vigilance of the guest (like a kind investigator), and then dread Tolstaya takes a chance of attacking the guest of the show. The question most TV viewers asks is why credulous celebrities accept the invitations of these “vipers” and participate in the show. If in luck, the guest can rebuff the attack the hosts are conducting on him/her, but there is no way to be protected from the stingy remarks made by the show-women in the second part of the program. Nevertheless, there are still many celebrities willing to participate in the show, despite many complaints made by the former guests.  Yet, television is known by its lack of morality, and the success of the show is determined solely by its rating, not by moral principles.

For which reasons does Tolstay (who can be ranked among the classic authors) need all this? She had better write the prose than crushing her opponents. However, Tatyana Tolstaya considers literature to be a pleasure, not a real job. TV is a job to her. Is Tolstaya enjoying the authority she has over the guest and the audience or just executing her work duties and waiting for the period of inspiration to write the next novel? After long happy period in the USA she came back to her readers with novel “Kys”. What is she going to bring the readers after hosting this TV show? Frankly speaking, I am terrified with the idea of the sort of novel she can create after this.

Galina Yuzefovich


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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova