Myth of Russia in French Culture

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His most well-known novels focus on “Holy Rus”, which is still very popular among the French. His Deceptive light about the heroism of the Decemberists, successors of western civilization which Soviet Russia so imprudently turned away from, is rightly considered one of his most successful attempts to interpret the Russian theme. The author clearly worked with some documents, but in the end almost a hagiographical novel was born about those, who dreamt of European democracy and were treated with such a cruelty by the tsar. The book was a great success among the contemporaries, which proves the “recognition” and relevance of the material. There is even a TV-series based on the book. The main characters in the novel are the submissive Russian moujiks and the cruel exploitative landowners; the story is set, of course, on the endless snow-covered vast expanses. The climax of the novel is the exile to Siberia. And here the Russian main trump card appears, which the French often use when write on the topic – the Russian woman who represents a Fair Lady, the symbiosis of attractiveness, education and tact. She is capable of deep love, selfless devotion and self-sacrifice.

The living example of this stereotype in France was unmistakable: Countess of Ségur. Her aristocratic spirit and blood and numerous talents, though revealed quite late, impressed the French greatly. Her books, that had been written for her grandchildren, became extremely popular and could be found in every children’s library in France. It is known that Countess of Ségur was actually Sofiya Feodorovna Rostopchina, a representative of a well-known aristocratic family. Her best-known book that made her a European celebrity was Sophie’s Misfortunes, which is still reissued and adapted for screen.

Standing out are Troyat’s memoirs Such a Long Way, translated into Russian by M.T. Unanyants. They say that such translation of his memoirs was proposed by the author himself. As the translator noted, Such a Long Way is a most exciting novel, genuine, emotional, filled with drama and, at times, irony. And, as the readers can see, it is very meaningful, too: the author reflects upon the problems, that are relevant at all times. We will mention just a few of them: the little man’s fate, the fall of ideals at the hairpin turns of history, the place of families, youth and women take in the modern world, moral issues, art, interaction between two different cultures.

This is also a very interesting record of the epoch, where through the eyes of a writer, historian and explorer the Time itself can be seen – the whole 20th century with all its cataclysms: from the World War I and the Russian Revolution to the World War II and the beginning of changes in Russia. Troyat’s recollections take a rightful honoured place among the memoirs of the 20th century.

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