Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Showcase - The Narrow Cage and other Modern Fairytales by Vasily Eroshenko. Translated by Adam Kuplowsky. Foreword by Jack Zipes

Today I'm so excited to be showcasing The Narrow Cage and other Modern Fairytales by Vasily Eroshenko a blinded Ukrainian born multilingual literary figure born in the late 1800s. This is on my shelf and I hope to get to it very soon.

ISBN-13: 978-0231207690
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Release Date: 03-07-2023
Length: 304pp

Buy It: Publisher/ Amazon/ B&N/ IndieBound



Vasily Eroshenko was one of the most remarkable transnational literary figures of the early twentieth century: a blind multilingual Esperantist from Ukraine who joined left-wing circles in Japan and befriended the famous modernist writer Lu Xun in China. Born in a small Ukrainian village in imperial Russia, he was blinded at a young age by complications from measles. Seeking to escape the limitations imposed on the blind, Eroshenko became a globe-trotting storyteller. He was well known in Japan and China as a social activist and a popular writer of political fairy tales that drew comparisons to Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde.

The Narrow Cage and Other Modern Fairy Tales presents a selection of Eroshenko’s stories, translated from Japanese and Esperanto, to English readers for the first time. These fables tell the stories of a religiously disillusioned fish, a jealous paper lantern, a scholarly young mouse, a captive tiger who seeks to liberate his fellow animals, and many more. They are at once inventive and politically charged experiments with the fairy tale genre and charming, lyrical stories that will captivate readers as much today as they did during Eroshenko’s lifetime. In addition to eighteen fairy tales, the book includes semiautobiographical writings and prose poems that vividly evoke Eroshenko’s life and world.


Foreword: The Piercing Truths of a Blind Storyteller, by Jack Zipes
Introduction, by Adam Kuplowsky
Part I. Japanese Tales (1915–1921)
1. The Tale of the Paper Lantern
2. The Sad Little Fish
3. The Scholar’s Head
4. By a Pond
5. An Eagle’s Heart
6. Little Pine
7. A Spring Night’s Dream
8. The Martyr
9. The Death of the Canary
10. The Mad Cat
11. For the Sake of Mankind
12. Two Little Deaths
13. The Narrow Cage
Part II. Chinese Tales (1921–1923)
14. From “Tales of a Withered Leaf”
15. The Tragedy of the Chick
16. Father Time
17. The Red Flower
Some Pages from My School Days
My Expulsion from Japan
Chukchi Pastoral
Chukchi Elegy


The Narrow Cage and Other Modern Fairy Tales is a marvel in every sense of the word. Adam Kuplowsky’s translation is a masterful homage to a storyteller whose own journey holds all of the hope and despair the best fairy tales contain. Read this book! -- Amanda Leduc, author of Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space

Kuplowsky’s remarkable translation unearths the long-buried treasure of the fairy tales by Vasily Eroshenko whose life and oeuvre not only bridge many cultures and peoples across Eurasia, but also awake our humanity to the light of hope through his multilingual account as a blind poet and storyteller. This indispensable collection deserves attention from any serious reader. -- Juwen Zhang, editor of The Dragon Daughter and Other Lin Lan Fairy Tales

[Eroshenko] has a childish yet pure and beautiful heart, and the boundaries of this world cannot limit his imagination…. Upon reading him, I felt grateful that mankind has been gifted such a work by a person who has yet to lose his childlike heart. -- Lu Xun

This blind Ukrainian Esperantist captivated readers as he lived and travelled solo across Asia. He wrote nonimperial translingual tales as his medium of transnational communication in an imperial world. Eroshenko’s modern fairy tales finally reach English-language readers in Kuplowsky’s skilful translations and insightful introduction. -- Sho Konishi, University of Oxford

[Eroshenko’s stories] are desperate cries for help by a writer who wants us to understand what we are doing to ourselves, and how we are destroying the world, when we could be cultivating more just and joyous ways of living. -- from the foreword by Jack Zipes

Eroshenko’s fairy tales are by turns quaint and heartbreaking, engrossing and thought-provoking. Their evergreen messages―pertaining to equality, political freedom, and the humane treatment of animals―feel as fresh and relevant now as they were a century ago. -- Eileen Gonzalez ― Foreword Reviews, starred review

A treasure trove of inventive and sometimes subversive fables that transcend borders. -- Lisa Wallin ― Tokyo Weekender

about the author:
Vasily Eroshenko (1890–1952) was a blind writer, translator, activist, and teacher who led an extraordinarily global life. After here well-known writers like Lu Xun were translating his stories to wide acclaim. The final decades of his life were spent in the Soviet Union under Stalin, and he died in obscurity.
Adam Kuplowsky is a translator based in Toronto.

Jack Zipes is a professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. studying in Moscow and London, Eroshenko traveled to Japan, where he found fame for his fairy tales and public speaking. Deported from Japan in 1921 for his connections to political activists, Eroshenko moved to China, where well-known writers like Lu Xun were translating his stories to wide acclaim. The final decades of his life were spent in the Soviet Union under Stalin, and he died in obscurity.


  1. He sounds like an incredible person and I feel badly that I've not heard of him or his work. Glad to see his fairytales highlighted.

    1. me either Sophia Rose I look forward to reading the book

  2. Ooo I love discovering new fairytales and lores.