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

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Two short stories by Teffi set among Russian Émigrés in Paris in the 1920s


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

Two short stories by Teffi set among Russian Émigrés in Paris in the 1920s

Teffi was The Pen name of Nadezhda Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya

May 21, 1872 - Born St Petersburg, Russia

1920- initially a supporter of The Revolution, she soon turned against The Bolsheviks.  She came to live in Paris and never returned. She was an important part of The Russian Émigre community.  She published extensively in Russian language publications, including 100s of Short stories and feuilletons. 

October 6, 1952 - Dies Paris, France

“Que Faire” - 1923

“We—les russes, as they call us—live the strangest of lives here, nothing like other people’s. We stick together, for example, not like planets, by mutual attraction, but by a force quite contrary to the laws of physics—mutual repulsion. Every lesrusse hates all the others—hates them just as fervently as the others hate him.”  - from “que faire?” 

Our narrator tells us every Paris based Russian Émigré calls others a crook as a matter of course 

““that-crook”, placed before the name of every lesrusse anyone mentions: “that-crook Akimenko”, “that-crook Petrov”, “that-crook Savelyev”. This particle lost its original meaning long ago and now equates to something between the French le, indicating the gender of the person named, and the Spanish honorific don: “don Diego”, “don José”. You’ll hear conversations like this: “Some of us got together at that-crook Velsky’s yesterday for a game of bridge. There was that-crook Ivanov, that-crook Gusin, that-crook Popov. Nice crowd.”

Émigrés divide each other into two categories- those selling Russia and those trying to save it.  The sellers are getting rich as middle 

persons, the other seen themselves on a holy mission to restore Tsarist era culture.

The tone of this charming story is comic with Émigrés attributing crazy actions to other Émigrés such as selling a Black Sea port to Chile.

You can also tell Émigrés are totally wrapped up in their own world.

“MARQUITA” - 1924 - set in a Russian Cafe in 

Paris - 

How can you not like a story that opens like this:

“The waitresses, all of them daughters of provincial governors (did we ever imagine our governors could end up with so many daughters?), pulled in their stomachs as they squeezed between the tables, abstractedly repeating, “One chocolates, two pastry and one milk…” The café was Russian, which is why it offered music and “entertainments”.”

(Ok maybe the ex-governors probably did not find this real amusing in 1924)

The characters in this story are all preforming in the club to survive.

The club is also a spot where richer Émigrés come looking for a mistress.

A rich Tarter has sent a box of candy to one the women working at the club.  Here is the advise an older woman gives her:

“A woman must be a mysterious flower (honest to God!) and not give anything away about her domestic arrangements. Men all have domestic arrangements of their own—and that’s what they want to get away from. Or do you want to go on singing romances russes in this teashop until you’re an old woman? Until either you or the teashop come to the end of your days?”

There are four other set in Paris stories in the collection.  These two were my favorites.

I read these works in TEFFI SUBTLY WORDED AND OTHER STORIES - Translated from the Russian by Anne Marie Jackson with Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, and others. From Pushkin Press

There are 23 works in the collection.  The New York Review of Books has published two collections of her work.  In is my hope to do a full read through of these collections.

Mel u

The Reading Life 

1 comment:

Marg said...

Years ago I read a big thick book which featured some Russian emigre characters. I also have read a couple of books featuring White Russian characters. For the life of me I can't think of the titles. It will comeback to me later I am sure.