Teffi: Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me

Oh, what would it have been like to be Teffi, born into a remarkable time that made personal encounters with Tolstoy, Rasputin, Gorky, and Lenin possible, and to have made a name for herself as a writer in an androcentric literary world?

These delightful autobiographical essays answer that question. From childhood recollections, what her multipurpose desk was like, how her pseudonym came to be, to encounters with history’s formidable men, Teffi writes with a poetic simplicity that makes for light reading while never lacking depth. 

“I adore oranges. They are round and golden, like the sun, and beneath their peel are thousands of tiny pockets bursting with sweet, fragrant juice. An orange is a joy. An orange is a thing of beauty.

And suddenly I thought of Ganka. She didn’t know about oranges. Warm tenderness and pity filled my heart.”

Stealing from the crate of oranges, she managed to give one to Ganka, who, in return, “Bit off a piece together with the peel, then suddenly opened her mouth wide, made a horrible face, spat everything out and hurled the orange far into the bushes.”

“I had become a thief in order to give her the best thing I knew in all the world. And she hadn’t understood, and she spat it out.”

And dear Teffi who apparently knew what it’s like to give one’s best and have it discarded just like that, called this short piece “Love”.

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