THE LAST DIARY OF TSARITSA ALEXANDRA by Alexandra

THE LAST DIARY OF TSARITSA ALEXANDRA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Sketchy diary notes from Alexandra's final days of captivity will interest only experts and the most dogged devotees of the doomed Romanovs. The collapse of the Soviet Union has enabled publication, for the first time in complete form, of the final diary of Tsaritsa Alexandra, edited by two staffers of the State Archive of the Russian Federation. Alexandra's diary conveys the tightening restrictions (i.e., painted windows, less outdoor time) imposed on the Romanovs during their final months under house arrest. It also attests to her intense religious faith and her boundless love for her children, especially the tsarevitch. But its style is terse and dry; notations are mere jottings, and full sentences are rare. Helpful footnotes include biographical details, explanations of religious terms, and excerpts of other diaries. (Nicholas's diary, with its narrative drive and attention to the outside world, stands in stark contrast to his wife's inwardly turned journal.) This perfunctorily written text receives an overwritten presentation. Nicholas and Alexandra author Massie and Jonathan Brent (editor of Yale University Press), who both contribute introductions, assert that the secret significance of Alexandra's diary lies in its tedium: the tsaritsa's personal record of time, weather, Russian Orthodox holidays, and birthdays. Such details, Massie claims, record ``her symbolic accommodation of the new and her resistance to the destruction of a traditional order of thought, action, and belief.'' Brent's approach is guided by both semiotics and psychoanalysis; in Alexandra's recourse to a private language he finds ``a complicated relationship to herself.'' The implication is that one must read Alexandra's diary as a semiotic text encoding the clash between the old and new, the sacred and the profane. Readers who are inclined to accept this task will find food for thought in the tsaritsa's diary. Those skeptical about having to decode the diary's ``mute pathos and ironic witness'' will simply be bored.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-300-07212-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997




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