‘Rasputin’ by Teffi/Nadezhda Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya, translated by Anne Marie Jackson

Like Silvina Ocampo, the Russian writer, Teffi, is another relatively recent discovery for me. During her literary career Teffi wrote satirical articles and plays, but by the age of forty she was publishing mostly short stories. In 1919, in the midst of the Russian Civil War, Teffi left Russia for Europe, eventually settling in Paris where she became a prominent figure in the émigré literary circles. Rasputinis one of Teffi’s most memorable pieces, a piercing account of her personal encounters with this legendary figure. While Rasputin is immediately drawn to Teffi, the feeling is far for mutual. As a consequence, the great mystic simply cannot understand why Teffi fails to respond to his charms – he is not accustomed to meeting such resistance from anyone, let alone a woman. For her part, Teffi detects something profoundly unpleasant and chilling about the atmosphere surrounding Rasputin: ‘the grovelling, the collective hysteria – and at the same time the machinations of something dark, something very dark beyond our knowledge.’ There is the sense that one could quite easily fall under his hypnotic spell and never be able to break free from it.

Collected in Subtly Worded, Pushkin Press 2014