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Far from Russia: A Memoir by Olga Andreyev…

Far from Russia: A Memoir

by Olga Andreyev Carlisle

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I always thought that Olga Andreyev Carlisle was a professor of Russian literature, but actually she is a painter--not that I've ever seen any of her work or heard of it spoken of. My husband gave me this biography as a present (it's signed by the author!) because it had the word "Russia" in the title.

It turns out that the reason I associate her name with Russian literature is because she and her husband were instrumental in getting Solzhenitsyn's work out of Russia and published in the West using all kinds of ruses so that Solzhenitsyn would not be complicit in this illegal, according to the Soviets, endeavor. Once Solzhenitsyn was out of Russia, he blamed them for not following his directions and denied them publishing rights. How this all came about is detailed in her memoirs.

She is the granddaughter of Leonid Andreev - a respected short story writer and playwright of the Symbolist era. Her grandparents' circle of friends included literary and cultural giants, and the beginning of the memoirs focuses on that, although she didn't really have much personal interaction with these people and didn't have very many interesting stories regarding her grandfather.

She grew up in France and the bulk of the memoirs focuses on her schooling and then on her college years where she meets her future husband. Way too much detail is given about their love-making, more than anyone really needs to know. Her move to America with her husband, raising her son, and finally the whole episode with Solzhenitsyn is near the end of the memoir. This was the most interesting part of the book, and it was too bad that it took so long to get there.

I'm not sure who this memoir is written for...most likely for any future grandchildren who come along, though some of it probably isn't really what you want to describe to your grandkids. It's not a bad book, just kind of meh. ( )
  Marse | Sep 8, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312252455, Hardcover)

She was born in France in 1931, daughter of Russian émigrés with revolutionary but anti-Bolshevik antecedents. Far from Russia, she would not set foot in the land of her ancestors until 1959, when she was married to an American editor and herself an aspiring painter well acquainted with the abstract expressionists who were reshaping modern art. Among the most charming passages in Olga Andreyev Carlisle's engaging memoir are her recollections of Paris during the enchanted spring and summer of 1951, when she fell in love with her husband-to-be, Henry Carlisle. She evokes with equal vividness the literary and artistic social life of New York in the 1950s and '60s--Robert Lowell and William Styron mingle in her pages with Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock--and describes the natural beauty of Nantucket, historic home to Henry's family. Yet the Russian language, politics, and especially literature are always in her heart; her earliest memories are of her parents reciting poetry aloud with Marina Tsvetayeva, and the closing section details her stormy tenure as Alexander Solzhenitsyn's representative to American publishers. Carlisle's account of her experiences in three equally beloved countries reminds us that a cosmopolitan life need not be rootless and alienated--hers, on the contrary, has been excitingly varied and richly satisfying. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:04 -0400)

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