Without nostalgia: Nina Berberova's short fiction of the 1930s Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Hoffman, Dominique
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • In the years following the Russian revolutions and Civil War, millions of Russians fled their homeland. These exiles formed a richly diverse society within exile known as Russia Abroad. They established schools, churches, publishing houses, newspapers and journals. Nina Berberova (1901-1993) was an integral participant of Russia Abroad, working at the largest circulation newspaper, Poslednie novosti, and frequently publishing in the most respected thick journal of the emigration, Sovremennye zapiski. Berberova, along with Vladimir Nabokov and Gaito Gazdanov, was recognized by émigré critics as among the most promising young writers. My dissertation, Without Nostalgia: Nina Berberova's Short Fiction of the 1930s, explores her representations of exile during the Hollow Years of 1930s France. Berberova's work was obsessively focused on representations of the exile experience, but she steadfastly rejected the nostalgia which characterized much émigré writing. From 1925, Paris was the center of Russia Abroad. During the 1930s, the decade in which the younger generation reached maturity as writers, conditions steadily deteriorated in France. In this dissertation, I examine three central fictional texts Berberova wrote in the course of the 1930s, which respond to the shifting concerns of Russia Abroad. I begin by looking at her Billancourt Tales, published serially in the newspaper Poslednie novosti from 1929-1934. In these works, Berberova depicts an exile community characterized by a persistent sense of un-ease. Berberova's consistent rejection of nostalgia emerges clearly in this series of story-feuilletons. I then consider Roquenval: the Chronicle of a Chateau, written in the middle of the decade, which draws on the tropes of 19th century literature to explore a young émigré's search for identity. In this novella, Berberova shows that the conventions of Russian gentry estate literature cannot provide meaning in 20th century France. Finally, at the close of the 1930s, on the eve of the war, Berberova published Astashev in Paris. In Astashev, Berberova depicts the apotheosis of bourgeois banality and triviality, ultimately linking those traits to fascism. Although she published extensive memoirs, there is no published biography of Berberova. I have included an appendix with a brief biographical sketch of Berberova's life.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures."
  • Levine, Madeline G.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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