Teffi is a recently rediscovered writer whose genius with the short form made her a literary star in pre-revolutionary Russia, beloved by Tsar Nicholas II and Lenin alike. Two translators of the new collection of Teffi's stories, Robert Chandler and Anne-Marie Jackson, talk about the whirlwind life and work of a Russian emigre writer coming soon to a bookstore near you.
The stories featured in the new book, Subtly Worded, were taken from the whole of Teffi's career, and show the full range of her gifts. Exceptionally funny - a wry, scathing observer of society, she is also capable, as capable even as Chekhov, of miraculous subtlety and depth of character. There are stories here from her own extraordinary life: as a child, going to meet Tolstoy to plead for the life of War and Peace's Prince Bolkonsky, or, much later, her strange, charged meetings with the already-legendary Rasputin. There are stories of émigré society, its members held together by mutual repulsion. There are stories of people misunderstanding each other or misrepresenting themselves. And throughout there is a sly, sardonic wit and a deep, compelling intelligence.
Teffi was born in 1872 into a prominent St Petersburg family and emigrated from Bolshevik Russia in 1919. She eventually settled in Paris, where she became an important figure in the émigré literary scene, and where she lived until her death in 1952. In her lifetime Teffi published countless stories, plays and feuilletons. After her death, she was gradually forgotten, but during the last twenty years she has been rediscovered by Russian readers. Now, nearly a century after her emigration, she once again enjoys critical acclaim and a wide readership in her motherland.