A wit wooed by Rasputin

Masha Karp enjoys the writings of a satirist shaken by the Red terror

The World Today
2 minute READ

Masha Karp

London-based journalist and author of the first literary biography of George Orwell in Russian

Memories – From Moscow to the Black Sea
Rasputin and Other Ironies

Teffi, Pushkin Press, £16.99 & £8.99

When Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya (1872-1952), who hid under the pseudonym Teffi, started writing, she knew that she would not be able to do it under her own maiden name, because this had already been taken by her famous elder sister, the poet Mirra Lokhvitskaya, a ‘Russian Sappho’ of the turn of the century.

She did not want to use her husband’s name either, as in 1900 she had left him, and their three children, to pursue a literary career in St Petersburg. She then chose a pen name that ‘sounds like something you’d call a dog’ and became a celebrity in her own right – as a satirist.

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