Moscow in the 1930’s by Natalia Gromova

Moscow in the 1930’s by Natalia Gromova

Russian fiction

original title – Последняя Москва.

Translator – Christopher Culver

Source – review copy

Well its a second visit to the Russia this woman in translation month , This time we have a historic novel about writers. Natalia Gromova is from a russian military family , she has lived in Moscow since an early agee and got a job at 16 working in the state historical library whilst finishing her studies , she has work for the Soviet encyclopedia in the past but since the mid 90s has been writing books that she use the historic archives to put together historic novels from original diaries , letters and articles of the time .

Alexander Fyodorovich served Russian literature like a priest: literature had completely replaced religion for his generation. But neither literature nor culture , as it became clear later, could save them from the chaos of revolution and then all ugly realities of Soviet life. many of these high-born gymnasium teachers and university professors looked at the complex issues of society and politics with disgust, and the consequences of this naturally fell on the heads of their children, who swept into the maelstrom of history.

I loved this passage about how literature took over religion in some in the 30’s

Moscow in the 1930’s is set during those pre war years of Stalin rule , we are drawn into a world of house and place that arent there anymore .This stitches together the diaries of writers like Olga Bessarabova, Vavara Grigiryena  are the two main sources for this work  well-known and now even forgotten to paint a picture of a world of writing at the time the friendships . People like Maria Belkina a well-known writer in her time but now forgotten to us in english. I loved the way Natalia brought us behind the doors of these writers as they discuss the works of the day and the writers Bulgakov who at the time was working on his own masterpiece that was set also in Moscow the Master and the Margarita during the 30’s .Daniil andreyev is another character who is in the story he was even in the book arrested by Stalin it turns out a lot of his great works were destroyed by The state secret police .

The more I read , the more colourful a picture I got of an old Moscow home . There were more than enough of these in the past. TO a degree, these Moscow homes were literary figures in themselves: fro the Rostovs happy home on Provarskaya street in War and Peace to the home of Gromeko family on the Arbat in Doctor Zhivago. Here the doors were always wide open, the house would teem with guests, a number of relatives would be resident, and holidays would be regularly celebrated, with Christmas festivities for children and adults

In her diary, Olga Bessarabova described the Dobrov home in the same way

An open door for the writer of the day to spend time with Olga and her family .

This is one of those books you need a notebook next to you as you read to note the names of the writers mention and their works . I did this and then looked to see what is available not much but I still have some to check out further Andreyev for example his later book roza mir , rose of the world came out in the late 90’s. Natalia Gromova brings a long gone Moscow to life , this is one of a number of books she has written using the same technique of real diaries and setting as a frame for her novels .I found this compelling if a slow read so much to absorb makes it a book that I will be rereading and discovering again.


Winstons books Sheffield and Chesterfield

Well I did review yesterday The boy who stole Attila’s horse which was one of three books I brought earlier this week from Sheffield as I have been off this week and we both had monday off we went for the day and as there waterstones has a slightly better selection of translated books I always love a look round.

20160129_160447First up is a trilogy of Novels by Samuel Beckett , which mix’s my wanting to read more Irish fiction and still reading translation add to this I see that World republic of letters have two translation of the same book out a Gaelic classic , I feel I be reading both Irish lit and Translated books. The second book is A school for Fools by Sasha Sokolov, which grabbed me for two reason first it is from NYRB classic a name I trust the other reason is a quote on the back if James Joyce had written in russian this would be the last two chapters of Ulysses.Another for my russian list this year.


Then I meet Amanda after work yesterday and we spent a few hours in town I found three books, the first two in Oxfam Two Adolescents by Alberto Moravia is made up of two novella Agostino and Disobedience , I remember someone  reviewing last year  the first novella Disobedience , which is a NYRB classic book now. The second book is a book by Roland Barthes on how myths are made and semiotics have come to me so much.


Strange how books I get connect in some way talking Myth and semiotics, the one writer we may think of is Umberto Eco and I happen to get this Baudlino is the one of two novels by him I don’t own I haven;t Numero Zero but I have read it over christmas but I want to have all his books on my shelves.

What books have you brought recently ?



Welcome 2016 reading resolutions and Euro 2016



Well I’m back and for the first time ever I am going to resolve to do a few things over the coming year blog wise. The first is a vow to review every book I read, so in order to do this I may need to read fewer books than previous years. I have been reading about 130 books on average a year but only tend to get to review two-thirds of the books so I am aiming for 100 books and 100 reviews this year and given my effort to try to improve this bloggers review style I am currently dipping into CS Lewis and IA Richards books on reviewing  . I will also do the first man booker international shadow jury which I am looking forward to see how the combing of the two prizes will effect the quality of the long and shortlists this  coming year . I keep vowing to read more english books , but I tried and failed with a different blog. So a small-scale effort , I will be doing a second Henry Green week  later in the year four years after the original Henry Green week . As you see I have a new Kindle well Fire that Amanda got me for christmas and I am looking for those lost gems of translated fiction that I can find via my kindle. As for other targets i have singled out Russia, I am a jumper of countries unlike Tony I tend to want to jump around the world every year although I was a bit Latin american Light blog wise last year so I may need to find a few latin american books to read .The other big project I want to do is around European 2016 football books and football I did a big project early on in the blog around the world cup in 2010 a full four years before anyone else connected blogs and football. For me this combines my two biggest passions football and books, but as we know male readers under thirty are the least likely to read so I really want to get these posts out there for a vague hope of connection using more of the football side to get clicks on the posts well I hope at least.

henry green

I hope to bring more films and music as well this year . My end of year blog round-up post told me I had managed 207 posts last year which was more than I expected given I was poor blogger at various times last year. So much the same as ever just translation given the henry green week so much same as ever. I have read some great books over christmas so when I do my best of 2015 post tomorrow I am like a jack in the  box all wound up for 2016 ready to pop back up.So what are your plans for 2016 reading wise.

Winston’s covers Bulgakov letters


My second Russian cover is the collective letters and diaries of the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov of course best known for his novel The master and Margarita. He was one of the leading lights of his generation. He has written to Stalin and Gorky among others. I have often found letter collection an interesting insight into the inner workings of a writer and  maybe a dying art are emails as personnel or thoughtful as a letter.

Winston’s covers Turn turn Turgenev


As  the year draws to an end I think the rest of the year I will do just Russian covers first up is a Turgenev. A novel of a homecoming, have recently read another classic Russian novel I feel 2016 may be my year of russian novels I will add a few more Russian novels to the blog and will be showing the covers til end of year of the books I have either as reread or unread to add to the blog. Have you a favourite Russian Novel ?

March 2023


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