THE BILLANCOURT TALES by Nina Berberova

THE BILLANCOURT TALES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A winning collection of 13 previously untranslated stories about exiles living in Paris in the wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution, written for an émigré newspaper in the years 1928–40 by the late (1901–93) author of The Tattered Cloak (1991) and the moving autobiography The Italics Are Mine (not reviewed). They’re Chekhovian sketches focused on “declassée intellectuals” and variously thwarted souls, like the gifted pianist who cannot rise above his unfulfilling job as a bookkeeper (“An Incident With Music”), a “rabbit farmer” unable to accept the pregnant woman who offers an escape from his loneliness (“The Argentine”), and a hopeful inventor whose formula for success is repeatedly frustrated (“About the Hooks”). Though disappointment and resignation are the prevailing moods, Berberova also surprises us—with the stories of a reluctant “guardian” whose demanding niece later becomes her protector (“The Little Stranger”) and of a supposedly failed writer who, it is later learned, “had died of imagination.”

Delicately fashioned cameos that deserve a place among the minor classics of expatriate fiction.

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 2001
ISBN: 0-8112-1481-8
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: New Directions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2001




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