Category Archives: NYRB Classics

Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me: The Best of Teffi by Teffi

Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, And Me - The Best of Teffi Title: Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me: The Best of Teffi
Author: Teffi
Edited by: Robert Chandler and Anne Marie Jackson
Publisher: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 978-1590179963
Genre: Non-Fiction, Literature, Essays
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Some books are just so good that you want them to last longer than they did – to savour them, every single word then become precious. Teffi is one such author whose works you just want to soak in and want the words to linger long after. I got to know of her through the NYRB website and knew I just had to read this one – because of the author’s associations with literary giants such as Tolstoy and how she got to meet the very famously infamous Rasputin, not once but twice.

Teffi’s experiences are what this book is about – short autobiographical pieces that are sometimes funny, mostly catty and unforgettable for sure. These pieces were written in the 20s and 30s when she was in exile in Paris. There is a touch of poetic quality to her prose (no wonder because she wanted to be a poet anyway).

A lot of wit, human understanding of the world and empathy shine in every essay and that is what I love about the collection. Sure there are parts that I couldn’t relate to (because of the cultural barrier), however what I read was enough to tide me over to be able to understand the beauty of her language and the points she was trying to make.

From speaking of her childhood most vividly to the Russian cultural phenomenon, nothing is left out. The essays show us the Russia that was quite forward in its approach when it came to the arts to the Russia that was turbulent and oppressive at the same time.

The book is divided into four parts – first being about how she lived and worked, second about personal aspects of her life – from how she was raised to her time in France, the third one is about her bizarre encounters with people and the fourth is about famous authors and writers. She truly did have a sense of understanding people and reading them quite accurately.

Teffi’s writing is crystal clear and she says what she has to without mincing any words. You might have to keep track of the people she mentions on and off in the book, but there is a guide for that at the end of the book as well. I am completely taken in by her writing after reading this collection of essays and plan to read some more of her for sure. You must read this collection of essays for sure, if history is of any interest to you.

Pitch Dark by Renata Adler

Pitch Dark by Renata Adler Title: Pitch Dark
Author: Renata Adler
Publisher: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 978-1590176146
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 168
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I had heard so much about Renata Adler’s books that there was no way I would not read them or at least one of them. So when “Pitch Dark” came my way, I knew I would love it. There are some books you just know you will enjoy no matter what and for me this is one of them. So you read what your instincts tell you will be a good book and you know that they will never lie. And with this belief I read “Pitch Dark” and loved Ms. Adler’s writing.

“Pitch Dark” is a strange book, in the sense that it has one storyline but told in a non-linear fashion – completely fragmented and yet connects in one way or the other. The book is about a woman and her affair with a married man. I am putting it loosely but that’s what it is at the core. There is this melancholy element that runs throughout the book – of unrequited love without it becoming dramatic or sentimental. It is what it is. Adler’s writing is raw, almost like a tornado that hits you and all you want to do is run and yet stay.

There are three sections to the book. The first one where Kate Ennis is told by her lover that he is leaving her or so it seems. Either way, they aren’t together. The second part of the book is on Kate taking off to Ireland and London to stay away and to get her life together and things go terribly wrong in those places as well. The third and final section is of her coming back and contemplating on getting back with her lover.

There is a lot of angst in the book. There is a lot of pain and at the same time there are so many tender moments like that of a raccoon coming to its death in her house in the first chapter to her knowing that things will never be the same. Adler’s writing is sharp, witty and satirical. It is uneasy. It is also quite a surprise in most places but more than anything else it is a pleasurable read in so many places that time just flies by and you will not know when this book ended. I will most certainly reread it this year.

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