Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi / ISBN 9781590179512 / 296-page paperback from New York Review of Books Classics
Used copy, light shelfwear only.
Winner of the 2018 Read Russia Prize and Pushkin House Best Book in Translation in 2017
Considered Teffi’s single greatest work, Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea is a deeply personal account of the author’s last months in Russia and Ukraine, suffused with her acute awareness of the political currents churning around her, many of which have now resurfaced.
In 1918, in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Teffi, whose stories and journalism had made her a celebrity in Moscow, was invited to read from her work in Ukraine. She accepted the invitation eagerly, though she had every intention of returning home. As it happened, her trip ended four years later in Paris, where she would spend the rest of her life in exile. None of this was foreseeable when she arrived in German-occupied Kiev to discover a hotbed of artistic energy and experimentation. When Kiev fell several months later to Ukrainian nationalists, Teffi fled south to Odessa, then on to the port of Novorossiysk, from which she embarked at last for Constantinople. Danger and death threaten throughout Memories, even as the book displays the brilliant style, keen eye, comic gift, and deep feeling that have made Teffi one of the most beloved of twentieth-century Russian writers.
Teffi (1872–1952) was the pen name of Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya, born in St. Petersburg into a distinguished family that treasured literature. She and her three sisters all became writers. Teffi wrote in a variety of styles and genres: political feuilletons published in a Bolshevik newspaper during her brief period of radical fervor after the 1905 Revolution; Symbolist poems that she declaimed or sang in Petersburg literary salons; popular one-act plays, mostly humorous or satirical—one was entitled The Woman Question; and a novel titled simply Adventure Novel. Her finest works are her short stories and Memories, a witty, tragic, and deeply perceptive account of her last journey across Russia and what is now Ukraine, before going by boat to Istanbul in the summer of 1919. Teffi was widely read; her admirers included not only such writers as Bunin, Bulgakov, and Zoshchenko, but also both Lenin and the last tsar. In pre-Revolutionary Russia, candies and perfumes were named after her; after the Revolution, her stories were published and her plays performed throughout the Russian diaspora. She died in Paris.