Synopses & Reviews
The prizewinning memoir of one of the world’s great writers, about coming of age as an enemy of the people and finding her voice in Stalinist Russia.
Born across the street from the Kremlin in the opulent Metropol Hote l— the setting of the New York Times bestselling novel A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles — Ludmilla Petrushevskaya grew up in a family of Bolshevik intellectuals who were reduced in the wake of the Russian Revolution to waiting in bread lines. In The Girl from the Metropol Hotel, her prizewinning memoir, she recounts her childhood of extreme deprivation — of wandering the streets like a young Edith Piaf, singing for alms, and living by her wits like Oliver Twist, a diminutive figure far removed from the heights she would attain as an internationally celebrated writer. As she unravels the threads of her itinerant upbringing — of feigned orphandom, of sleeping in freight cars and beneath the dining tables of communal apartments, of the fugitive pleasures of scraps of food — we see, both in her remarkable lack of self-pity and in the two dozen photographs throughout the text, her feral instinct and the crucible in which her gift for giving voice to a nation of survivors was forged.
"From heartrending facts Petrushevskaya concocts a humorous and lyrical account of the toughest childhood and youth imaginable.... It [belongs] alongside the classic stories of humanity’s beloved plucky child heroes: Edith Piaf, Charlie Chaplin, the Artful Dodger, Gavroche, David Copperfield.... The child is irresistible and so is the adult narrator who creates a poignant portrait from the rags and riches of her memory." — Anna Summers, from the Introduction
"Petrushevskaya, now seventy-six and finally attracting the readership she deserves, [has] a ringleader’s calm mastery of the absurd." The New Yorker
"A terse, spirited memoir that reads like a picaresque novel... Lively, irreverent... With spunk and defiance, [Petrushevskaya] survived, and transcended, the privations of her youth." Kirkus Reviews
"A gritty, surprisingly disarming portrait of the grim Stalinist era." BBC, "Ten Books You Should Read in February"
"Powerful.... Like a stained-glass Chagall window, Petrushevskaya’s Soviet-era memoir creates a larger panorama out of tiny, vivid chapters, shattered fragments of different color and shape.... [It] brings to mind Auden’s famous words about Yeats: 'Mad Ireland hurt him into poetry.' This memoir shows us how Soviet life hurt Ludmilla Petrushevskaya into crystalline prose." The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Ludmilla Petrushevskaya was born in 1938 in Moscow, where she still lives. She is the author of more than fifteen collections of prose, including the New York Times bestseller There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales (2009), which won a World Fantasy Award and was one of New York magazine’s Ten Best Books of the Year and one of NPR’s Five Best Works of Foreign Fiction, and There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories (2013). A singular force in modern Russian fiction, she is also a playwright whose work has been staged by leading theater companies all over the world. In 2002 she received Russia’s most prestigious prize, the Triumph, for lifetime achievement.