Poignant reflections of a beloved Russian humorist as she fled her homeland on the eve of Bolshevik victory.
As more of the work of Russian poet, playwright, and short story author Teffi (the nom de plume of Nadezhda Aleksandrovna Lokhvitskaya, 1872-1952) is translated, her English-language fans will certainly increase, as she is a delightful stylist, dialogist, and observer of her era. Teffi was known for her wry poetry and feuilletons published in the Russian reviews of the first decade of the 20th century (Satirikon, Russian Word), yet her sympathy toward the Bolsheviks cooled when the magazine she wrote for, New Life, became a mere party organ; she then moved to Moscow. In her subsequent travels, she did not glean that fate was favoring the Bolshevik cause. As she first fled an increasingly intolerable existence in Petrograd, she moved with the rumors of safe areas still held by the “whites,” Ukraine and the Black Sea. The stages of her journey during this precarious time make up these amusing and affecting “memories,” first published in installments between 1928 and 1930 in a Russian-language newspaper in Paris, where she finally located permanently. The work chronicles her flight from Moscow and subsequent chaotic and perilous travels to Kiev and Odessa. She was first harnessed to a Ukrainian Jewish “impresario” named Gooskin, who helped mitigate her transfer (along with other motley characters) to the Ukrainian border, and then she traveled by ship from Odessa to Novorossiysk, where all kinds of fleeing types had washed up. Finally, she arrived in Yekaterinodor, where she had agreed to do two nights of readings. Throughout, the author’s characterizations are precise and even ruthless, and she captures the tense mood of paranoia and sorrow of the refugee.
Fluently translated by several hands and introduced by Teffi’s biographer, Edythe Haber, these are priceless anecdotes and beautiful portraits of friends and acquaintances lost forever.