The Ladies from St. Petersburg

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9780811214360: The Ladies from St. Petersburg

A collection of three novellas which chronologically paint a picture of the dawn of the Russian Revolution, the flight from its turmoil and the plight of an exile in a new and foreign place.

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Review:

Born in 1901, Nina Berberova led a life that encompassed both pre-revolutionary and post-communist Russia, and the three novellas comprising The Ladies from St. Petersburg follow the arc of their author's experience. In the title story, Varvara Ivanovna and her daughter Margarita plan a vacation in the country. True, there have been some shootings in the streets of St. Petersburg, and the trains are packed with people fleeing the city, but when Varvara expresses her fear of a "conflagration," she is assured that "all this revolution business will fizzle out very quickly. We here are all agreed that the Bolsheviks have no chance whatsoever." The sad dénouement of the tale, of course, tells a different story.

Berberova continues to explore the Revolution and its aftermath in the next two novellas. "Zoya Andreyevna" follows the fortunes of a young woman caught up in the midst of the fighting. Zoya has left her worthy but dull husband and moved in with her lover. When war breaks out, the lover enlists in the White Army and Zoya is left on her own, fleeing from town to town and at the mercy of common people who despise her as much for what she has lost as for who she once was. In the final story, "The Big City," Berberova injects a note of grace into the émigré experience as she chronicles a day in the life of an unnamed narrator who discovers after a day of small adventures that

every person brings whatever he can to this big city ... some dream, or thought, or melody, the noonday heat of some treasure, the memory of a snow-drifted grave, the divine grandeur of a mathematical formula, or the strum of guitar strings. All this has dissolved on this cape and formed the life I plan to take part in too from now on. With you, who are not here with me but alive in this air I breathe.

From the Publisher:

Marian Schwartz was awarded the Texas Institute of Letters Award for her translation of in The Ladies from St.Petersburg.

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