THE ITALICS ARE MINE by Nina Berberova


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It is a rare mind which puts itself on a par with the total of matter and energy. Such, however, is the mind of Nina Berberova, Russian poet and novelist, who tells us here that from time to time she is aware that the sum of her parts is greater than the whole of the universe. Unfortunately, but typically, this cryptic remark is not further amplified in her loosely ordered autobiography, which recounts her Russian youth, her discovery of her poetic vocation, and her years of exile in Paris and America. Vital details are fuzzy: she and a young man decide to ""be together"" and ""survive""; pages later we find this means they got married (maybe). A second union is announced five years after it took place. There are odd and disappointing gaps in the author's awareness of her environment too: for example, not one coherent paragraph on the Russian Revolution, to which she was an eyewitness. If Professor Berberova is insensitive to history, she is acutely conscious of literary in-groups. Among the writers she met in her emigre years, she discusses Nabokov, Pasternak, and Gorky. She adds little to their portraits; she does better in her pages on her first husband, Khodasevich, and on his friend Bely, who alone seem real and human. Though there is a sixty page biographical scorecard for the uninitiated, the general reader will undoubtedly be confused by the obscurity of many of the names dropped. Possibly of interest to the specialist in emigre letters.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1969
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World