BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week
‘Wonderfully idiosyncratic, coolly heartfelt and memorable’ William Boyd
‘I never imagined such a memoir could be possible… enthralling’ Antony Beevor
‘A vividly idiosyncratic personal account of the disintegration of Tsarist Russia after the Revolution, as alive to the farcical and the ridiculous as it is to the tragic; a bit like what Chekhov might have written if he had lived to experience it’ Michael Frayn
The writer and satirist Teffi was a literary sensation in Russia until war and revolution forced her to leave her country for ever. Memories is her blackly funny and heartbreaking account of her final, frantic journey into exile across Russia-travelling by cart, freight train and rickety steamer-and the ‘ordinary and unheroic’ people she encounters. From refugees setting up camp on a dockside to a singer desperately buying a few ‘last scraps’ of fabric to make a dress, all are caught up in the whirlwind; all are immortalized by Teffi’s penetrating gaze.
Fusing exuberant wit and bitter horror, this is an extraordinary portrayal of what it means to say goodbye, with haunting relevance in today’s new age of diaspora. Published in English for the first time, it confirms the rediscovery of Teffi as one of the most humane, perceptive observers of her time, and an essential writer for ours.