THE TATTERED CLOAK by Nina Berberova


And Other Novels
Email this review


 Quintessentially Russian in mood and theme, the collected novellas of 89-year-old Russian ÇmigrÇ and former Princeton professor Berberova now make their American debut. Set mainly in Paris, where Berberova, like so many other Russians, lived after the Revolution, the six stories are of men and women ill-prepared for exile and irrevocably shaped by their Russian past. In ``The Resurrection of Mozart,'' the Russian hosts of a party in the French countryside on the eve of the German invasion are relatively prosperous, but the hostess--when asked whom she would choose to resurrect--suggests Mozart, because she connects his name with her earliest childhood and because he lives on as something ``transparent and eternal that might take the place of happiness.'' In ``The Waiter and the Slut,'' the aging Tania, who has lived off men since she came to Paris, moves in with an old ÇmigrÇ waiter and decides to take revenge for her unhappy life by inciting him to murder her. Meanwhile, in the longest two pieces- -''The Tattered Cloak'' and ``The Black Pestilence''--a woman and man respectively cannot escape the past. The young woman, who works in a Parisian laundry, is sustained by the story of the legendary ``Tattered Cloak'' told to her in St. Petersburg. And like the diseased pearl earring he must sell, the man in the second story- -despite friendship and an advantageous move to America--is slowly being destroyed by grief for the woman--a victim of the Revolution- -he loved. The remaining ``Astashev in Paris'' and ``Memory of Schliemann'' describe two men--one who cynically tries to escape the past, and the other who finally resigns himself to the present. Unrelieved bleakness--economically told and skillfully executed, but too cerebral, too carefully crafted to move.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-679-40281-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


FictionTHE ACCOMPANIST by Nina Berberova
by Nina Berberova
FictionTHE BILLANCOURT TALES by Nina Berberova
by Nina Berberova
FictionTHE BOOK OF HAPPINESS by Nina Berberova
by Nina Berberova