On Saturday, November 11, historian Douglas Smith presented “Restoring a Forgotten Russian Masterpiece: Konstantin Paustovsky’s ‘Story of a Life’” as a part of the Russian History Museum’s Second Saturday online lecture series.
In 1943, the Soviet author Konstantin Paustovsky started out on what would prove a masterwork, The Story of a Life, a grand novelistic memoir of a life spent on the ravaged frontier of Russian history. Eventually expanding to fill six volumes, this extraordinary work of a lifetime would establish Paustovsky as one of Russia’s great writers and lead to a nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Douglas Smith has now published a critically acclaimed new translation of the first three volumes of this long forgotten masterpiece.
In this talk, Douglas Smith discussed what led Paustovsky to undertake this work, how Marlene Dietrich became one of the biggest fans of Story of a Life, and much more.
About the Speaker
An award-winning historian and translator, Douglas Smith is the author of six books on Russia. His works have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He studied German and Russian at the University of Vermont, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and has a doctorate in history from UCLA.
Over the past thirty years Douglas has made many trips to Russia. In the 1980s, he was a Russian-speaking guide on the U.S. State Department’s exhibition “Information USA” that traveled throughout the USSR. He has worked as a Soviet affairs analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich and once served as an interpreter for late President Reagan.
Douglas has taught and lectured widely in the United States, Britain, and Europe and has appeared in documentaries for National Geographic, the BBC, and Netflix. He is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including a Guggenheim fellowship, Fulbright scholarship, and a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study Center.
His book Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy was a bestseller in the UK. It won the inaugural Pushkin House Russian Book Prize in 2013, was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, and was chosen Book of the Year by Andrew Solomon in Salon.
More information on Former People and other works by Douglas Smith can be found on his website: https://douglassmith.info/.