Saturday, July 11, 2015

A troubled life

Literary Review - Donald Rayfield on Stalin's Daughter

Well, amongst the many things I didn't know much about until now was the turbulent life of Svetlana Alliluyena, Stalin's daughter.  She defected from Russia in 1967.  This paragraph  from a review of a new biography gives some details of her, shall we say with understatement, troubled life:

Svetlana emerges as a remarkable, largely generous, sometimes heroic
figure. Whatever she inherited from her pathologically cruel and
vindictive father and from her neurotic, suicidal mother she did her
best to overcome (her brother, Vasili, succumbed and destroyed himself
with drink and sex; her half-brother, Yakov, who grew up fostered in
Georgia and did not meet his father until he was a teenager, was
captured by Germany during the Second World War and effectively
committed suicide by provoking his German captors to shoot him).
Svetlana's childhood and youth were as traumatic as any of Euripides's
tragedies: her mother shot herself when she was six; Stalin had nearly
all the maternal aunts, uncles and cousins of his children arrested and,
in many cases, shot. Svetlana's first love was badly beaten and sent to
the Gulag; her first husband was erased from her passport after they
divorced; her second husband was the withdrawn son of one of Stalin's
cronies. She barely saw her father after she ceased to be a living doll
that he could play with: her most searing memory is of Stalin in his
death throes on the floor, soaked in urine, threatening her with a
raised left hand. Yet after his death she negotiated a career for
herself and refused to be a mascot for the party or for anyone else. In
the prestigious Gorky Literary Institute she stood up for the first
dissident writers to fall victim to the Brezhnev regime. She dared to
live openly as Singh's partner.

She did not have a particularly good time after her defection, either, but you can read the review to see what went wrong.

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