It’s almost Valentine’s Day, which has us thinking about affairs of the heart — but not in the Hallmark card way, of course. Yesterday saw the release of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories (an even better title than her last translated collection, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales), and needless to say, the book is full of off-kilter, lurid, even violent attempts at connection. To celebrate the book’s release (and stock you up on reading in advance of Valentine’s Day), we’ve put together a list of ten of our favorite thoroughly messed up short stories about love. But of course, the literary world abounds with these, so read through and add your own twisted favorites in the comments.
“Tamara’s Baby,” Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
In this odd little short story, a horrible man (“At the dinner table he yelled and pontificated, spat our his doof and bared his only tooth, wishing both to stuff himself and to have his say”) meets a meek septuagenarian at a health resort, and they take up together — an odd but sweet love story. It’s not until later that you discover that she is only interested him because she thinks he is her dead baby resurrected, and she thrills to take care of him and his bald head and single tooth.