Berberova, Nina Nikolaevna (БЕРБЕРОВА, НИНА НИКОЛАЕВНА) (1901–1993) By Palmer, Isobel
Nina Nikolaevna Berberova (1901–1993) was a prominent Russian émigré writer, journal editor, and memoirist. She was born to an Armenian father and Russian mother in St. Petersburg, and died in Philadelphia. Berberova left Russia in 1922 with her then-lover, Vladislav Khodasevich. The couple lived in various European cities during the 1920s as part of Maxim Gorky’s household, before settling in Paris in 1925. Berberova emigrated alone to the USA in 1950. There she held various jobs before joining the Slavic department at Yale in 1958. From 1963 until 1971 she taught at Princeton University, where she was prized as one of the last living links to Russian Silver Age culture. The incisive, understated style of Berberova’s short stories about émigré life in Paris has been compared to that of Turgenev and Chekhov. Many of these stories were published in émigré publications, for which she also wrote reviews and critical articles. In 1947, she helped found the émigré weekly Russian Thought [Russkaia Mysl’]. Berberova is also the author of several biographies, including one of the poet Aleksandr Blok and one about Tchaikovsky — notable for its frank discussion of the composer’s homosexuality. She is perhaps best known for her memoirs The Italics Are Mine (1969; first published in Russian as Kursiv moi in Munich in 1971). A source of controversy in the émigré community due to their candour, and accused of fabrication, the memoirs provide a vivid record of her generation, its leading figures, and their post-revolutionary fate.