Marian Schwartz

Marian Schwartz

Marian Schwartz is a prize-winning translator of Russian fiction, history, biography, criticism, and fine art. She is the principal English translator of the works of Nina Berberova and translated the New York Times bestseller The Last Tsar, by Edvard Radzinsky, as well as classics by Mikhail Bulgakov, Ivan Goncharov, Yuri Olesha, and Mikhail Lermontov. She is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowships and is a past president of the American Literary Translators Association.

cover image of the book Billancourt Tales

Billancourt Tales

Billancourt Tales collects thirteen superb stories from those Nina Berberova wrote in Paris between 1928 and 1940 for the émigré newspaper The Latest News. In Berberova’s own words, these stories contain traces of “human tears that were more like the drop formations on a piece of Edam cheese than the dew on a rose petal.” Billancourt, a highly industrialized suburb of Paris, gave Berberova her subject. Here thousands of exiled Russians — White Guards, civilians, and Berberova herself — were finding work and establishing a home away from home with their Russian churches, schools, and small business ventures. Berberova thought the significance of the tales was in their historical and sociological aspects — and yet these fine stories are the kind that have led to comparisons to Chekhov. They portray a wide range of human beings and the twists and turns of their various lives. Sometimes amusing, sometimes sad, these stories show Nina Berberova at her very best: “her appeal remains strong, and becomes stronger still, because she was both participant and chronicler, because she experienced and imagined.” (Yale Review).

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cover image of the book The Accompanist

The Accompanist

A spellbinding, short novel set in post-revolutionary Russia, The Accompanist portrays with extraordinary sensitivity the entangled relationships of three characters. Sonechka is a talented but shy young pianist hired by a beautiful soprano, Maria Nikolaevna, and her devoted, bourgeois husband. Maria is everything Sonechka is not, glamorous, flamboyant. Her voice brings with it “something immortal and indisputable, something which gives reality to the human being’s dream of having wings.” Doomed to live in her mentor’s shadow, the young girl secretly schemes to expose the singer’s infidelities. But as she awaits her chance, the diva’s husband takes matters into his own hands, bringing events to a surprising resolution. This intense and beautiful little novel, written in 1936, was first published in America almost fifty years after it was written; now available in paperback, it is a wonderfully compelling and crucial addition to Nina Berberova’s magnificent oeuvre.

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cover image of the book The Book of Happiness

The Book of Happiness

The Book of Happiness is the most autobiographical of the novels the great Russian writer Nina Berberova (1901-1993) wrote during the years she lived in Paris. “All Berberova’s characters live raw, unfurnished lives, in poverty, on the edge of cities, with little sense of belonging––except in moments of epiphany––to their time and in life itself” (The Observer). Such a character is Vera, the protagonist of The Book of Happiness. At the novel’s opening, Vera is summoned to the scene of a suicide, that of her closest childhood companion, Sam Adler, whose family left Russia in the early days of the revolution and whom Vera has not seen in many years. From here Berberova spins the story with a wonderful unsentimental poignancy, creating a lasting testament to the indestructibility of happiness.

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cover image of the book Cape of Storms

Cape of Storms

In Cape of Storms, Nina Berberova portrays a very specific generation––one born in Russia, displaced by the Revolution, and trying to adapt to a new home, Paris. Three sisters––Dasha, Sonia, and Zai––share the same father, Tiagen, an attractive, weak-willed, womanizing White Russian, but each thinks differently about her inner world of beliefs and aspirations, and consequently each follows a different path. Dasha marries and leaves for a bourgeois expatriate life in colonial Africa. Zai, the youngest, and an appealing adolescent, flirts with becoming an actress or a poet. Sonia, the middle daughter, completes a university degree but falls victim to a shocking tragedy. Cape of Storms is a shattering book that opens with a hair-raising scene in which Dasha witnesses her mother’s murder at the hands of Bolshevik thugs, and ends with the Blitzkrieg sweeping toward Paris. It is unparalleled in Berberova’s work for its many shifts of mood and viewpoint and secures the author’s place as “Chekhov’s most vital inheritor” (Boston Review).

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