Found in Translation: ‘Subtly Worded’

This post is part of a series, spotlighting some of our favorite translated works. Join us in our commitment to reading stories from all over the globe – because bookshelves are best when they’re diverse.

“An anecdote is funny when it’s being told, but when someone lives it, it’s a tragedy. And my life has been sheer anecdote, that is—tragedy.” –Teffi (Pushkin)

Russian humor writer Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya – writing under the nom de plume Teffi – was what I like to call a “firecracker lady.” (Other women who fall in this category: Renata AdlerAda LovelaceEthel L. Payne.) To wit – at age 13, Teffi visited an elderly Leo Tolstoy and asked him to change the ending of War and Peace. Rasputin attempted to seduce her – and failed. She was known as the Queen of Russian Humor.

Once one of Russia’s premier writers, her work was relatively forgotten after her death in 1952. In the past 20 years or so, Teffi’s work has resurfaced in Russia. More recently, she’s gaining a following in the United States as well. Pushkin Press published this book, a compendium of work from throughout Teffi’s life, in 2014.

Teffi’s work is often compared to that of Anton Chekov – and for good reason. Her writing is subtle, but scathing – and not to be missed.

– Diana “Sunny” Sone

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