|A Moth on the Fence|
When Nikolay Andreyev was compiling his memoirs he said that he was amazed how many ‘near-misses’ there had been in his life and how odd it was that he had survived, whereas others had not. Come what may, he remained an optimist who tried to see the good in any situation and person, whether they were guards in a Soviet prison camp, professors or international politicians.
First published in Russian and now translated into English by Patrick Miles, with an introduction and notes by his own daughter Catherine, this memoir describes Nikolay’s childhood, the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War, his life as a refugee and the death of his siblings. It describes his life as an émigré in Estonia and Prague between the two World Wars, when, as acting director of the Kondakov Institute in Prague, he managed to save the institute by playing the Czech authorities off against the Nazis. When the Red Army occupied Prague many émigrés were arrested, Nikolay included. After detention in Soviet transit jails in Czechoslovakia and Germany, he was released and ended up in Berlin as a ‘displaced person’, and he finally settled in Cambridge, where he embarked on a distinguished teaching career at the university from 1949-1975.
Nikolay Andreyev was a Slavist of international reputation and wide academic interests, from Russian icons and the early history of Muscovy to Russian literature and thought. He was one of the earliest literary critics to recognize the genius of Vladimir Nabokov.
Throughout his captivating narrative and despite all he had to endure, Nikolay never lost his wit and indomitable sense of humour.
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