Influence of French Language and Culture in the Lives of Eight Women Writers of Russian Heritage

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This is a comparative study of the lives and literary production of Russian-born French writers from the 18th to the 20th century: Empress Elizabeth, Catherine the Great, Princess Dashkova; Maria Bashkirtseff, the Comtesse de Ségur; Nathalie Sarraute, Elsa Triolet, Irène Némirovsky, and Zoe Oldenbourg. This book shows how they were influenced by their Russian heritage and how the traditions and impressions of their youth are visible in their French writings.


“Few readers could ask for a more fascinating group of writers than the eight women whose biographical and literary affiliations with Russian and France are so illuminatingly explored…. Poulton’s clear and well-constructed narrative takes into account key political and cultural upheavals of Russia itself even as it traces with careful sensitivity the private thoughts and unique literary strategies of these eight extremely interesting women. I am confident that other readers will be, as I was, both stimulated and enlightened – not least of all when they read, in one of the study’s several informative appendices, the elderly Oldenbourg’s responses to Poulton’s deft questions in a telephone interview, responses that are searching, direct, fiercely frank, and utterly devoid of personal vanity.” – Russell Pfohl, emeritus, Indiana University-Bloomington

“The author has handled her subject magnificently and in full knowledge of the history of the period during which the women lived and wrote… With her keen sense of organization, Poulton remains clear and wonderfully succinct, almost a tour de force considering the wealth of material she had to handle and organize…. It is an important contribution to the interrelations of France and Russia during the 18th, 19th, and even 20th centuries.” – Prof. Guy Mermier, University of Michigan

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
1. Realms of Memory: Language, Religion, and the World of Peter the Great
2. The 18th Century: The Empress Elizabeth, Catherine the Great and the Princess Dashkova
3. The 19th Century: Maria Bashkirtseff and the Comtesse de Ségur
4. The Russian Revolution and its Effects on the Families: Saurraute, Triolet, Némirovsky, and Oldenbourg
5. Rewriting Realms of Memory in Oldenbourg, Sarraute, Triolet and Némirovsky
Appendix 1: The Emancipation Act of 1861
Appendix 2: Political Parties in Pre-Revolutionary Russia
Appendix 3: Russian Newspapers/Magazines in Paris
Appendix 4: A Conversation with Zoe Oldenbourg
Bibliography; Index

Other France/French: All Subjects Books