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Ten things you didn’t know about Teffi

Posted 1st Jun 2017

“An anecdote is funny when it’s being told, but when someone lives it, it’s a tragedy. And my life has been sheer anecdote, that is—tragedy” Teffi

Radio 4 Book of the Week Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea, by 20th century literary sensation Teffi, is now out in paperback. As we’re launching into full-blown Teffi-mania, we thought it was about time you got to know the woman behind the hype. Read on for ten little-known facts about this Russian literary superstar.

1. Born Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya, she chose the pseudonym ‘Teffi’ because it was similar to the name of a local fool. Fools were supposed to bring luck – and were allowed to speak the truth.

2. Her wealthy family included her elder sister, Mirra, who was a famous poet, known as the ‘Russian Sappho’

3. When Teffi was only 13, she visited the elderly Tolstoy to try to convince him to change the fate of Prince Andrei in War and Peace

4. Both Lenin and the Tsar loved her

5. Rasputin tried hard (but failed) to seduce her

6. She had chocolates and perfume named after her

7. She was the most popular, most widely read Russian émigré writer in Paris

8. She had a ringside seat for many of the cataclysms of the 20th century – she lived through the Russian Revolution in Petrograd, the Civil War in southern Russia and Ukraine, and the Nazi Occupation of France in Biarritz

9. She was described by one of her fellow writers as ‘the only Englishwoman in Russian literature’

10. She ranks alongside Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Ivan Bunin and Andrey Platonov as one of the great Russian writers of the twentieth century

Want more from Teffi? Don’t miss the wonderful Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea, now in glorious paperback!