Nina Berberova

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Nina Berberova
Born(1901-07-26)July 26, 1901
St. Petersburg, Russian Empire
DiedSeptember 26, 1993(1993-09-26) (aged 92)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Nina Nikolayevna Berberova (Russian: Ни́на Никола́евна Бербе́рова) (St Petersburg, 26 July 1901 – Philadelphia, 26 September 1993) was a Russian Empire-born writer who chronicled the lives of Russian exiles in Paris in her short stories and novels. She visited post-Soviet Russia.

Biographical sketch[edit]

Nina Berberova and her husband, writer Vladislav Khodasevich in Sorrento in 1925

Born in 1901 to an Armenian father and a Russian mother, Nina Berberova was brought up in St Petersburg.[1][2] She left Russia in 1922 with poet Vladislav Khodasevich (who died in 1939). The couple lived in Berlin until 1924 before settling in Paris. There Berberova became a permanent contributor to the Russian emigre publication Poslednie Novosti ("The Latest News"), where she published short stories, poems, film reviews, and chronicles of Soviet literature. She also collaborated with other Russian emigre publications in Paris, Berlin, and Prague. The stories collected in Oblegchenie Uchasti ("The Easing of Fate") and Biiankurskie Prazdniki ("Billancourt Fiestas") were written during this period. She also wrote the first book length biography of composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1936, which was controversial for its openness about his homosexuality. In Paris she was part of a circle of poor but distinguished visiting literary Russian exiles which included Anna Akhmatova, Vladimir Nabokov, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Since its inception in 1940, she became a permanent contributor to the weekly Russkaia Mysl’ ("Russian Thought").

After living in Paris for 25 years, Berberova emigrated to the United States in 1950 and became an American citizen in 1959. Since 1954 she was married to George Kochevitsky, Russian pianist and teacher.[3] She began her academic career in 1958 when she was hired to teach Russian at Yale. She continued to write while she was teaching, publishing several povesti (long short stories), critical articles and some poetry. She left Yale in 1963 for Princeton, where she taught until her retirement in 1971. Berberova moved from Princeton, New Jersey, to Philadelphia in 1991.

Berberova’s autobiography, which details her early life and years in France, was written in Russian but published first in English as The Italics are Mine (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969). The Russian edition, Kursiv Moi, was not published until 1983.

Literary archives[edit]

Much of Berberova’s early literary archive (1922–1950) is located in the Boris I. Nicolaevsky Collection at Stanford University. Her later literary archive (after 1950) is in the Nina Berberova Papers and Nina Berberova Collection at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

English translations[edit]

  • The Italics are Mine, Vintage, 1993.
  • Aleksandr Blok: A Life, George Braziller, 1996.
  • Cape of Storms, New Directions 1999.
  • The Ladies from St. Petersburg, New Directions, 2000.
  • The Tattered Cloak and Other Stories, New Directions 2001.
  • The Book of Happiness, New Directions, 2002.
  • The Accompanist, New Directions, 2003.
  • Moura: The Dangerous Life of the Baroness Budberg, NYRB Classics, 2005.
  • Billancourt Tales, New Directions, 2009.


  • Alexandre Blok et son temps (1947)
  • Biiankurskie Prazdniki (stories published in the 1920s in Poslednie novosti)
  • Poslednie i pervyi (1930)
  • Povelitel'nitsa (1932)
  • Chaikovskii : istoriia odinokoi zhizni (1936)
  • Bez zakata (1938)
  • Oblegchenie uchasti (stories published in the 1930s in Sovremennyi zapiski were collected in 1947)
  • The Italics are Mine (English version of Kursiv Moi, 1969)
  • Zheleznaia Zhenshchina (1982)


  1. ^ Cornwell, Neil (2013). Reference Guide to Russian Literature. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. p. 165. ISBN 1134260709.
  2. ^ Dust jacket biographical details, from The Italics are Mine, Chatto & Windus, 1991
  3. ^ [1] Россия и российская эмиграция в воспоминаниях и дневниках. А.Г. Тартаковский, Т Эммонс, О.В. Будницкий. Москва. РОССПЭН. 2003


  • Barker, Murl G. 1994. In Memoriam: Nina Nikolaevna Berberova 1901-1993. The Slavic and East European Journal 38(3):553-556.
  • Kasack, Wolfgang. 1988. Dictionary of Russian literature since 1917. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Buck, Joan Juliet 1993. "Postscript: Nina Berberova." The New Yorker, 25 October 1993.