Russian Women's Studies: Essays on Sexism in Soviet Culture

By Tatyana Mamonova; Margaret Maxwell | Go to book overview

13
Teffi: * Light Humor

When I first saw Teffi's book, with a picture of a samovar on the cover, under the title Gorodok' ( Small Town)' I didn't buy it, fearing my usual disappointment with the emigré press.But my duties and work with women's art led me once again to the book. This time I did buy it, and I had no cause for regret.

Teffi did not write about the usual things.This book was fresh and new. It was a joyous discovery. Reading the first story I happened upon, "The Conversation", I laughed so hard I cried, something I do rarely. Teffi accurately picked up on all the ridiculous sides of life outside one's home‐ land, beyond one's habitual milieu.The protagonists are like two lost children. The conversation occurs between two emigrés of the "first wave" one from Paris, the other from Berlin.I don't know how this humor will be understood by foreigners, but for me, a Russian woman wandering the cities of Europe with my husband and young son in search of shelter (primarily, as it happens, in Paris and Berlin), this humor was more than accessible.

We are losing Russian to the same degree that we are acquiring a new language (or languages), although there is always a distance between us and the new language unless, of course, we master it as children.But the image of a U shaped test-tube, with its liquid being sucked up on one side, and lowered on the other is preserved. Children often master a new language outside the country they wore born in at the expense of their native language. To my great chagrin, my own son prefers French because we have lived longer in Paris than any other city.But after a month in the United States (following Berlin), he is apt to come up with a sentence which begins in Russian (as Mother demands), continues in German (which he learned recently), turns into French (his preferred language) and finishes up in English! In school he is around American children his own age, and that's an incentive.In Teffi's

____________________
*
Pseudonym for Nadezhda Alexandrovna Bushinskaya.
There have been three waves of emigration from the Soviet Union: the first occurred in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917; the second during and after World War II; and the third, a predominantly Jewish emigration, started in the early seventies and has gradually tapered off.

-106-

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