teffi: From Odessa to Paris

Static1.squarespaceCatherine Brown at Literary Review:

Fans of Teffi in this country have had to wait only two years since the publication of Subtly Worded, her remarkable collection of short stories, for two further volumes to appear. Memories, her memoir of the Civil War, and Rasputin and Other Ironies, a collection of shorter reminiscences, are both, like Subtly Worded, published by Pushkin Press and translated by the excellent Robert Chandler and colleagues.

From these books we gain a much better sense of Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya (as Teffi was born) as a person. No longer do I think of her as the female Chekhov or the Russian Saki, but simply as Teffi – or rather unsimply, since she is both robust and vulnerable, sensible and absurd, compassionate and satirical. I wish that the portrait of her by Ilya Repin, described in her essay on the painter, had survived (perhaps even to feature in the ‘Russia and the Arts’ exhibition now on at the National Portrait Gallery in London). It would have been fascinating to see which of these qualities Repin managed to capture.

The wry perceptiveness that was apparent in Subtly Worded is evident again in several pieces here: in ‘The Merezhkovskys’; in ‘Liza’, a portrait of a quixotically mendacious friend; and in ‘How I Live and Work’, which paints a picture of her messy Montparnasse desk.

more here.