The Story of a Life

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New York Review of Books, Feb 14, 2023 - Biography & Autobiography - 816 pages
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One of the most famous works of Russian literature, a memoir about a writer's coming of age during World War I, the Russian Civil War, and the rise of the Soviet era. This is the first unabridged translation of the first three books of Konstantin Paustovsky's magnum opus.

In 1943, Konstantin Paustovsky, the Soviet Union's most revered author, started out on his masterwork, The Story of a Life, a grand, novelistic memoir of a life lived on the fast-unfurling frontiers of Russian history. Eventually published over six volumes, it would cement Paustovsky's reputation as the voice of Russia around the world, and see him nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Newly translated by Guggenheim fellow Douglas Smith, these are the first three books of Paustovsky's epic for a whole new generation. Taking its reader from Paustovsky's Ukrainian youth, struggling with a family on the verge of collapse and the first flourishes of creative ambition, to his experiences working as a paramedic on Russia's frontlines and then as a journalist covering the country's violent spiral into revolution, The Story of a Life offers a portrait of an artistic journey like no other.

As richly dramatic as the great Russian novels of the 19th and 20th centuries, but all the more powerful for its first-hand testament to one of history's most chaotic eras, The Story of Life is a uniquely dazzling achievement of modern literature.

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About the author (2023)

Konstantin Paustovsky (1892–1968) was born in Moscow and grew up in Ukraine. Paustovksy witnessed the breakout of World War I while studying law at the University of Moscow and went on to document life in Soviet Russia through a turbulent revolutionary period in his novels, novellas, and short stories. In 1965, Paustovsky was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Douglas Smith is a translator and historian, and has written several books about Russian history. His book Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy 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.

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