The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

January 24, 2014

January 24, 1874

Tatiana Shchepkina-Kupernik (January 24 1874, July 27, 1952), was a Russian writer. She also was an actress and member of Chekhov's literary circle..

She wrote "From Lita's Childhood" about a lovely and lonely child who is an orphan living with her mother's cold relatives. Among the probable  autobiographical elements in this fiction is that Lita
 read books such as Nikolay Vagner's The Tales of Kitty Cat.

A short story by  Shchepkina-Kupernik, titled "Transitions" was the subject of an OUP blog post (by Sasha Dugdale).  Here is how Dugdale describes the story:

... of an actress who lives an impoverished life on the fringes of Moscow’s theatrical society. Widowed with two small children, she relies on her theatre company retainer to keep the wolf from the door. She sees and understands the disgusted pity of the men around her (there’s a repetition of words like ‘disdain’ in the story, as if her decline had a foul smell). These men, former lovers and former fellow actors have been allowed to keep up the pretence of youth and charm whilst her looks have been spoilt by grief, poverty and hardship. She recognises the whole charade of theatre life but with an astonishing lack of bitterness or malice. All she needs is the small wage she receives for remaining in the company, and the culmination of the story, her fateful meeting with the theatre director is tremendously poignant. ....
There is something very particular about the description of the domestic interiors, the way in which the very furniture and textiles indicate a woman on the way down:... the nappy flung over a mirror. These details are counterpointed by the meticulously observed domestic interior of another more successful actress, but one who is also on the point of tipping into unmarketable middle age. Nobody else has ever described this world and in quite this merciless way.

We learn these biographical details about the author, from Dugdale's write up:

Tatiana Shchepkina-Kupernik was the great-granddaughter of a famous Moscow actor and part of Moscow’s world of theatre from her debut as a teenage actor. She went on to make her name as a translator for theatre, translating Rostand into Russian whilst still in her teens, Shakespeare, and Lope de Vega during her later life. She was surrounded by scandal: her long affair with the actor Lidia Yavorskaya was the stuff of Moscow gossip. The two women met together in the city’s hotels with others, including Chekhov, and there were rumours of orgies and wild parties. In 1894 the couple set off for Italy, where they briefly lived together openly.

Shchepkina-Kupernik lived from 1874 to 1952. What a wealth of worlds between these time posts. 

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