In the house of a certain Moscow physician there is a magnificent picture gallery, which after the death of its owner will become the property of the town, though now it is little known and difficult to get at. In this gallery hangs a picture, strange in its conception but marvellously painted, not at all well known, though it is the work of a highly-gifted Russian artist. In the catalogue this picture is designated by the title, "A Legend of the White Night."

The picture is of a young lady dressed in an exquisitely simple black gown, and wearing a broad-brimmed black hat with a white feather. She is seated on a bench in a garden just budding into Spring. Her face is very beautiful, but it holds an enigmatical expression. In the unreal and enchanting light of the white night which the artist has so marvellously represented it seems at times that the lady is smiling in joy, and at times the same smile seems to possess a haggard expression of terror and despair.

- The Lady in Fetters

The Sweet-Scented Name is a book of fairy-tales and fables written by the Russian Symbolist author Fedor Sologub; the edition I have is a 1915 printing, edited and with an introduction by Stephen Graham (who, interestingly, speaks of Russia as "the land of such short tales" and notes that long novels are unusual and unpopular... take that, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky). It has since been reprinted and released in paperback, though this version too is now out of print -- though still more affordable than the $50-100 one is likely to pay for the 1915 edition.

The stories range from traditional fairy tales like the simple, pointedly moral Wings to the bizarre and mildly horrifying The Herald of the Beast. A few of them seemingly share a connection through the name Turandina, which belongs to a fairy-tale princess; however, the character herself is quite different in each -- in one, modest and gentle, in another cruel and whimsical.

Of the twenty-nine stories collected in the book, several stand out. Turandina brings a princess from a distant land of magic into Sologub's Russia, where a young lawyer finds her and helps her adapt. Who Art Thou? shows a different Turandina, an enchantress who treats a young man's mind like a plaything from her far-off palace. The Lady in Fetters tells of romance and possession, or simply natural evil -- which, it's never made clear; and even if it were, could it make a difference? The Kiss of the Unborn is a grim study of guilt, though with a reassuring end. And the almost-Lovecraftian Herald of the Beast is surreal and poetically violent, strange and twisted yet beautiful.

Table of Contents:

The Sweet-Scented Name
Who Art Thou?
The Dress of the Lily and of the Cabbage
She Who Wore a Crown
The Delicate Child
The Bit of Candy
The Lump of Sugar
The Bull
The Golden Post
So Arose a Misunderstanding
The Lady in Fetters
The Kiss of the Unborn
The Hungry Gleam
The Little Stick
Adventures of a Cobble-Stone
The Future
The Road and the Light
The Keys
The Independent Leaves
The Crimson Ribbon
Slayers of Innocent Babes
The Herald of the Beast
On the Other Side of the River Mairure
The Candles

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