Disappointingly, little about these thirteen lackluster fragments is indigenously Russian -- except perhaps the profusion of lady zoo-attendants (the author for one) and an occasional sobering thought: ""When the war years came we had to send away our animals. They were loaded onto a huge barge and had just started down the Volga when three German planes attacked. . . ."" Among Mrs. Chaplina's pets, charges, or virtual acquisitions were an elephant and a tiger with nasty dispositions; a moose-deer too spoiled (by her) to engage either interest or compassion (he dies); an under-nourished cheetah remanded to a circus on regaining strength who recognized his ex-keeper's voice four years later after having been blinded. Warmest and by far the longest episode is ""Kinuli,"" the Born Free-type story of a lion cub who lived with the Chaplinas for over a year -- to the delight of most and the consternation of two, one a prospective burglar only too happy to see the police. The edited translations are variously unfelicitous while sometimes the treatment (exploitation?) of the animals makes for a different kind of unease; this then chiefly affords an inside view of the Zoo -- and if you've been there before in the better books it's superfluous.