The Book of Happiness
by Nina Berberova
Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz
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.