Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, July 16, 2021

“The Life of Madame Duclos” - A Short Story by IRINA ODOEVTSEVA -translated by Irina Steinberg ‘The Life of Madame Duclos’ (Zhizn´ madam Diuklo) first published in Zveno 6 (1927), pp. 336–60.

“The Life of Madame Duclos” - A Short Story by IRINA ODOEVTSEVA -translated by Irina Steinberg ‘The Life of Madame Duclos’ (Zhizn´ madam Diuklo) first published in Zveno 6 (1927), pp. 336–60.

This story is included in Russian Émirgé Short Stories from Bunin to Vanovsky - edited by Brian Karetnyk.  I highly reccomend this wonderful collection

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2021 - Hosted by Thyme for Tea

Works read so far for Paris in July 2021

  1. Lost in Paris by Elizabeth Thompson - 2021
  2. Loving Modigliani by Linda Lappin - 2020
  3. Russian Émirgé Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky - edited by Bryan Karetnky. 2018 - an overview 
  4. Pancakes in Paris - Living The American Dream in France by Craig Carlson - 2016
  5. The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen- 2021
  6. The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure - 2013
  7. “Requiem” - A short story by Gaito Gazdanov - 1960
  8. The Ice Swan by J’nell Ciesieski - 2021
  9. Two Short Stories from the 1920s by Teffi
  10. “Dimanche” - A Short Story by Irene Nemirovsky - 1934- translated by Bridget Patterson 2015

Irina Odoevtseva

Born -June 15, 1895 - Riga,Latvia (then part of the Russian Empire)

1922 - with her husband the poet Georgy Ivanov, she emigrates to Paris 

She wrote several novels which sold well. She also authored two commercially successful memoirs, On the Banks of the Neva (1967) and on The Banks of the Seine (1983).  Her final book caused a good bit of controversy do to her remarks on famous Émigre artists and writers, including Ivan Bunin.

In 1987, she returned to Russia, living in Leningrad.  New editions of her memoirs sold over 200,000 copies and sh was a frequent guest on cultural Tv shows.

Dies - October 14, 1990 - St Petersburg, Russia 

“The Life of Madame Duclos”, set in Émigré Paris in the 1920s, is just a wonderful mini-history of the life of a Russian woman in Paris. 

Manechka,an orphan, was sent to an exclusive St Petersburg girls boarding school by her aunt.  Right after graduation her aunt marries her to a very wealthy Parisian, 33 years her senior.  He has business that takes him to St. Petersburg every few months.  He saw her preforming in a ballet and fell in love with her.

“In the very first winter following her graduation from the institute, Manechka Litvinova got married to Monsieur Ducious…. So, on that morning, when the aunt walked into her room – a white room, covered in pictures of her girlfriends from the institute – pinched her cheek and said: ‘Now listen up my dear, I’ve found you a husband. A Frenchman. A rich one. You’ll have your own house in Paris. How about that?’ Manechka curtseyed just as gracefully. ‘You’re an angel, ma tante! Merci!’ They were married a month later. Monsieur Duclos was fifty, Manechka was seventeen. Monsieur Duclos would come to Russia on business, staying for no more than six weeks at a time. He had seen Manechka at the ballet and had fallen in love.”

He was fifty, a widower, and she 17.  The house turns out to be a huge mansion. Manechka is proud of her status and her girlfriends are jealous.  The house has numerous tenants and even a concierge.  Her husband is not at all a bad man, affectionate and generous.  She learns what is expected of the wife of a wealthy Parisian businessman.  They settle into a routine.  Then one day she finds him dead in his room.  She becomes a devoted widow for years, very affluent from her husband’s businesses and rental income.  She wears black for three years.  Then, she is only 21,

throws of her widows clothes and has an extensive new wardrobe made.  The servants are scandalized by her.  

She begins notice a young Russian man her age who has recently become a tenant.  She finds he is a student.  She becomes infatuated with a man way below her station in society.  She is dismayed to find he has moved out. She hires a defective to find him.  

The story closes in a very romantic fashion.  


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