The Doll's Alphabet

Short stories from an unholy marriage of Angela Carter, Sheila Heti, and H. P. Lovecraft.

Dolls, sewing machines, tinned foods, mirrors, malfunctioning bodies - by constantly reinventing ways to engage with her obsessions and motifs, Camilla Grudova has built a universe that's highly imaginative, incredibly original, and absolutely discomfiting. The stories in THE DOLL'S ALPHABET are simultaneously childlike and naive, grotesque and very dark.


»THE DOLL'S ALPHABET is a startling debut collection of short stories ... The stories are beautiful, disturbing and at times grotesque. ... It avoids genre categorization and is best seen as genre-crossing, most closely related to weird or speculative fiction. A wide range of influences can be seen in Grudova's work: Kafka, Surrealism, Bruno Schulz, the Gothic, Freud, de Sade, Grimms' Tales, Carter, Poe, Lydia Davis and Kelly Link as well as other literary and artistic traditions. This dystopian collection of fables is darkly humorous and frequently astonishing.«
The Glasgow Review of Books

»Full of nightmarish fairytales and settings that could be set in futuristic dystopias or our own world.«
The London Magazine

»Grudova's style is an exotic cocktail: three parts magic realism, two parts dystopian, and a splash of extreme feminism. However, there is a playful intelligence driving these weird stories and a real talent that can't be dismissed - even when she seems most eccentric.«
Daily Mail

»If fairytales could dream, this nightmarish collection is what you might end up with. Grudova's closest living counterpart could be Ben Marcus, with whom she shares a heavy debt to Kafka ... But the atmosphere of her fantastical, semi-dystopian settings is so unique and persuasive that the day after finishing the book, I awoke from a dream to realize that it had taken place in Grudova's universe. ... The author's surreal humour, often delivered via deadpan dream logic, recalls the startling short stories of Leonora Carrington. Both Carrington and Grudova excel at a certain well-placed, pedestrian literalism that works deliciously against the magical elements in their fiction.«
Times Literary Supplement

»One of the most fascinating and compelling books of 2017. Highly readable and accessible despite its rather complex melange of influences both classical and modern, the unusual collection reads like a sequence of dreams from which the reader does not wish to awaken. People transform into... non-people (I will leave it at that to avoid spoilers!) and Grudova conjures a fusion of seemingly realist prose with often surreal and fantastical storylines in ways that baffle and hypnotize as much as they delight and compel. With her use of recurring imagery such as the sewing machine to reflect on women's autonomy, THE DOLL'S ALPHABET often reads as a queer sort of feminist manifesto - as spoken in tongues, or dictated by a Ouija board.«
The Winnipeg Review

»The comic grotesqueries that emerge from this collection owe a bit to Dickens, Kafka and Heinrich Hoffmann's "Der Struwwelpeter", but their total effect is delightfully unclassifiable. ... THE DOLL'S ALPHABET is clearly a revisionist undertaking. It unsettles assumptions about motherhood and marriage. But it also separates itself from its feminist predecessors. The world it inhabits - droll, inexplicable and even beautiful in its slovenly fashion - is unlike any other I've encountered.«
Wall Street Journal

»Strikingly weird stories. There are shades of David Lynch, Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter in this collection of feminist allegories and surreal skits.«

»THE DOLL'S ALPHABET ... has already garnered comparisons to Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Leonora Carrington, Ben Marcus, and Franz Kafka. To this list let me add another name: George Orwell. Not the dystopian Orwell of 1984 or the allegorical Orwell of ANIMAL FARM but the down-and-out, grubby-oilcloth Orwell of THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER and KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING. Grudova does mermaids and magic, but she also does moldy, dingy, scratch-and-sniff interiors that reek of cabbage and old shoes.«
Harper's Magazine

»A remarkable collection akin to a cabinet of infinite curiosities or a hall of mirrors, THE DOLL'S ALPHABET disgusts and delights in equal measure.«
Chicago Review of Books

»[Grudova's] stories not only absorb the most fantastic of elements but normalize them, often to deeply troubling effect. ... Over the course of THE DOLL'S ALPHABET, Grudova isn't merely creating a collection of stories. Read as a whole, one feels swept into an entire universe. Elements - including dolls, pregnancy and poverty - repeat and shift between stories, lending a unity to the collection.«
National Post

»With tight prose and razor sharp wit, Grudova transforms her worlds into something sinister and truly modern.«
The Edinburgh Book Review

»Beginning with a tale of "unstitching", the ambitious short stories in THE DOLL'S ALPHABET play out like dreams in which recurring obsessions stitch themselves into the narrative at a bizarre and unsettling cost ... Just when we feel we have escaped the familiar for the fantastical, an event or a detail pulls us back. The resulting picture is one of a society determined by structures as opaque and incredulous as our own.«
Tank Magazine

»Marvellous. Grudova understands that the best writing has to pull off the hardest aesthetic trick - it has to be both memorable and fleeting.«
Deborah Levy, author of 'Hot Milk'

»Pick up THE DOLL'S ALPHABET, a spellbinding collection of short stories by Camilla Grudova, and prepare to have your day and night dreams forever and delightfully altered by Grudova's uncertain universe. In it, meet exceptionally original, gorgeously dark, grotesque, and utterly fantastical characters conjured up by Grudova's masterful storytelling and weird and wonderful ways of engaging with her obsessions.«
Marisa Iacobucci, This

»The worlds created are notable for their variety and consistency: the style is all Grudova's own, and the prose shows an artfully balanced combination of economy and embellishment that is deeply satisfying to read.«
Totally Dublin

»Dark, playful, and eerily resonant, the off-kilter worlds of these stories are rife with enchantment and surprise. A woman becomes unstitched, another has pinned her hopes on a man with no papers, and a tormented girl conjures an angel with her friend. Grudova's narrative voice is fresh and her point of view singular. The stories act as a funhouse mirror, reflecting real contemporary concerns in unexpected ways.«
Danuta Gleed Literary Award, The Jury

»I haven't read anything as strange or brilliant as this in a long time. I know it won't be for everybody but it's very risk taking and it's easy to write what everybody else writes and that's not what Camilla Grudova is doing. ... We need work like this in the world.«
Arena RTE Radio 1

»THE DOLL'S ALPHABET is a self-assured, self-possessed, stunning and incomparable debut.«

»Grudova has this beautiful way with language, colliding beauty with the grotesque. Alluring us, the reader with stunning prose that builds into this sinister and seductive story until you are trapped within this visual discomfort formed from her imagination. ... Grudova's debut collection is one of the best things I have read this year and I cannot wait to see what else she has to come.«
Typewriter Teeth

»These stories are fleshy, bodily, grounded in a material reality that is as much tactile and olfactory as it is visual. Objects are covered in films of oil and layers of dust. One has the distinct impression that they would leave a residue on your skin if you reached out to touch them, and the stories themselves stick to you. ... I began this review by observing that THE DOLL'S ALPHABET is a strange book, and it is certainly that, but it also a tight and cohesive book. It is a richly textured book that invites and troubles the senses. It is an abstruse and resonant book. It is also an immediate and engaged book. And it is, above all, an immensely rewarding book.«
The Temz Review

»Through language and storytelling that are consistently refreshing and unique, Grudova has created a fascinating, thematically and materially consistent universe. ... Each of this book's stories features plot developments that are entertaining, evocative, witty, and utterly unexpected.«
Quill & Quire

»Imagine a world in which the Brothers Grimm were two exquisite, black-eyed twin sisters in torn stockings and hand-stitched velvet dresses. Knowing, baroque, perfect, daring, clever, fastidious, Camilla Grudova is Angela Carter's natural inheritor. Her style is effortlessly spare and wonderfully seductive. Read her! Love her! She is sincerely strange - a glittering literary gem in a landscape awash with paste and glue and artificial settings. «
Nicola Barker, author of 'Darkmans'

»THE DOLL'S ALPHABET is both enchanting and shocking. Grudova's weird, wonderful voice draws the reader in, takes holds, and refuses to let go.«
Toronto Star

»[THE DOLL'S ALPHABET] is a meticulously crafted modern gothic, thoughtful in its explorations of femininity and what can survive in darkness.«
The Riveter

»Down to its most particular details,THE DOLL'S ALPHABET creates an individual world - a landscape I have never encountered before, which now feels like it was been waiting to be captured, and waiting to captivate, all along.«
Sheila Heti, author of 'How Should a Person Be'

»THE DOLL'S ALPHABET captures the alluring texture of nightmares. Though neither horror nor fantasy in any traditional sense, the stories that make up this collection, Grudova's first, are otherworldly and thoroughly unsettling ... the emotional and visual tone of the stories is that of an atemporal decay, of no-time and all-time, suggestive of the moment when cultural decadence gives way to an aesthetically-impoverished malaise ... these are stories that will linger with you.«
Prairie Fire: a Canadian Magazine of New Writing

»Reading Grudova's quirky tales took me back to the time when I first read George Saunders's 'Pastoralia'. Grudova manages to be funny and disturbing within the same sentence and every story in this collection is bizarre.«

»This doll's eye view is a total delight and surveys a world awash with shadowy wit and exquisite collisions of beauty and the grotesque.«
Helen Oyeyemi, author of 'Boy, Snow, Bird'

»THE DOLL'S ALPHABET explores sex and gender roles through steampunk, absurdism, magic, and mayhem. [...] Camilla Grudova's collection will appeal to anyone who loves weirdness with a message.«

»Grudova's prose is both elegant and nonchalant, offering horrific imagery as if nothing were untoward, and a feminist subtext colours almost every story. One of the most troublingly imaginative, blackly hilarious authors to have emerged in recent times.«
Buzz Magazine

Original Language

English, Fitzcarraldo Editions

Rights sold

GERMAN CulturBooks

Available Material

English pdf
German sample


on behalf of Fitzcarraldo Editions
Arabic, Dutch, German, Hebrew, Korean

© Courtesy of the author

Camilla Grudova

Camilla Grudova lives in Toronto. She holds a degree in Art History and German from McGill University, Montreal. Her fiction has appeared in The White Review and Granta.