I may have fallen behind in writing about my NYRB subscription books (must write about Patrick Modiano and Jean Giono still), but more importantly I am on track with my reading. This is good as May's book just arrived in the mail last week. I had never heard of Russian author, Teffi, before, but now I will get the pleasure of being introduced to her work. Memories from Moscow to the Black Sea was originally published in installments between 1928-1930.
I've only barely started to read the introduction, so I don't have much to say about it yet, but I can at least share a teaser, which will literally be a teaser for me as much as for you. Teffi is the pen name for (big breath here) Nadezhda Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya. It would seem she was quite famous in her day (her day being the early 2oth Century).
"Teffi was at the time one of the most widely read and beloved of Russia's writers. As one émigré commenter asserted: 'There was scarcely ever another writer in Russia who had such an enormous circle of readers as Teffi.' He added that, although she published almost exclusively in the liberal press, 'both Russias' read her and she was a favorite of the last Tsar, Nikolai II (as she was of his Bolshevik successor, Vladimir Lenin.) Her celebrity reached such heights that there even existed Teffi perfume and Teffi Candies."
And that's about as far as I have gotten in my reading so far, but I shall be continuing on and perhaps will skip the introduction in favor of simply diving into her memoirs. A few biographical facts just to get oriented. She and three sisters all became writers. She wrote across the genres--everything from "political feuilletons" (during the 1905 Revolution) to Symbolist poetry, plays and short stories which are said to be some of her best work. This book of memoirs covers her last months in Russia and Ukraine during the aftermath of the Revolution of 1918. She had been invited to speak in Ukraine, and while she had every intention of returning home to Russia her journey ended some four years later in Paris. She spent the rest of her life in exile. I guess I will find out as I read.
"Danger and death threaten throughout Memories, even as the book displays the brilliant style, keen eye, comic gift, and deep feeling that have made Teffi one of the most beloved of twentieth-century Russian writers."
I've not read any Russian Lit for some time, so I am looking forward to this. Turning to chapter one and the very first page I begin reading:
"Moscow. Autumn. Cold."
"My Petersburg life has been liquidated. The Russian Word has been closed down. There is, it seems, no possibility of anything."
"Or rather, there is one possibility; it appears, day after day, in the shape of a squint-eyed Odessa impresario by the name of Gooskin, who is trying to persuade me to go with him to Kiev and Odessa and give public readings there."