the Life and Times of Warrior Woman

blonde recluse. nihilarian pronk.

read: vertinsky’s quarter of a century without motherland.

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(This is not a book review, even though it’s tagged as such.  I don’t write reviews, rather, short (or long) notes on whatever it is that I’ve read.)

I love reading memoirs.  Diaries, letters, biographies, autobiographies, journals, notes on travels or daily life – I love it all.  When I’ve only started getting into the genre, I lamented the fact that these books are very hard to come by – only to discover over a hundred of them within one month in my family library only.

This was a book that I haven’t found – rather, my mother found it and started reading, and later, when my mother started having problems reading on her own, I read it out loud to her.  We finished it a few days ago.

Alexander Vertinsky is a Russian (later on Soviet) artist – writer, singer, actor, song-writer, poet…  He didn’t live a long life, but it was indeed very interesting.  After the fall of the Russian Empire, he emigrated.  At first to Turkey, later on to Bessarabia, Poland, and eventually France, where he stayed for the majority of his – partially voluntary, partially not – exile from Russia.

I am ashamed to admit that up to this book I’ve never even heard of the guy, even though he’s considered one of the leading masters and founders of the Russian artistic/ variety singing tradition.  Even now, as I type this, I haven’t heard a single song of his or seen him in a role.

The leitmotif of this book is Vertinsky’s love for his motherland.  He misses it dearly all through the years of his emigration, and nearly everyone he meets during his travels misses it as well.  I don’t find it hard to believe at all.  Nearly all other memoirs of Russian Empire expats are filled with the same idea.

This book is a collection of anecdotes (some funny, but most rather sad) of his interactions with artistic expat community from all over Europe.  It was an interesting read, and I discovered many names of artists and performers that I would really like to explore further.  The book seemed abridged at places – and it probably was.  His original notes were probably even edited by him before submitting it for publication.  Though it was published in late 1980s, there were still a lot of things one couldn’t just go and write about.

Another thing that was interesting to me about this book is the representation of Russians in the emigrant community – and the way the target community views the entire Russian nation on the basis of profiles of those who emigrated.  It’s a subject that is very dear to (and difficult for) me, but the more I read, the more I understand form where the general consensus comes.

I don’t think this book is available in English.  The Russian version is listed here on Google Books, but I don’t think one can read it or purchase it anywhere.

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Written by Alexandra

16 September 2012 at 3:25 pm

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