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Nina Berberova papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 182
Scope and Contents

The Nina Berberova Papers consist of the correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, personal papers, and memorabilia in Berberova's possession at the time of her death in 1993, as well as material she had previously given to the library. The collection spans the entirety of her life from 1913, with the bulk of the material concentrated in 1950-1993, the years Berberova lived in the United States. The papers are chiefly in Russian, English, French, and German. The majority of her early papers (1922-1950) are part of the Boris I. Nicolaevsky Collection located in the Hoover Institution of War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

The Papers are organized into ten series: Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, Personal Papers, Photographs, Memorabilia and Personal Effects, Audio/Video Tapes, Vladislav Khodasevich Papers, Materials Removed from Books, and Printed Materials.

Series I, Correspondence , is arranged in alphabetical files by correspondent. Berberova kept copies of her outgoing letters fairly systematically from about 1950, thus in many cases both sides of the correspondence have been preserved. In general, individuals writing on behalf of an organization have been filed under the name of the organization. For example, Hubert Nyssen, director of the Actes Sud publishing house and Berberova's close friend, is filed under Actes Sud (Publishers), along with other representatives of the company.

The correspondence consists of personal letters from famous Russian emigre writers and artists: Georgii Adamovich, Ivan Bunin, Zinaida Gippius, Roman Gul', Georgii Ivanov, Aleksandr Kuprin, Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Vladimir Nabokov, Aleksei Remizov, Gleb Struve, Marina TSvetaeva, and Boris and Vera Zaitsev. In addition, there are 67 letters and 9 cards from Khodasevich to Berberova, written during the 1920s and 1930s.

As a teacher in various American universities, Berberova conducted a voluminous correspondence with scholars of Russian literature, such as David Bethea, Clarence Brown, Andrew Field, Lazar' Fleishman, Gerald Janecek, Simon Karlinsky, Robert Maguire, John Malmstad, Omry Ronen and Richard Sylvester. She also befriended and corresponded with many of her students and countless other individuals, educational institutions, publishers and translators. Most letters from Berberova's students are filed at the end of the series under "Graduate Students." Letters from those students who later became prominent in the field of Russian literature, and with whom Berberova continued to correspond, have been filed in the alphabetical sequence.

Series II, Writings , consists of 13 subseries, which reflect her many areas of creative endeavor. The files include typescripts, holographs, research notes or publication material for most of Berberova's major books and shorter writings. The last subseries is a section of "Writings by Others About Berberova's Life and Works." Material from her years in the United States predominates.

The first subseries, Books, contains working files for Berberova's published books, plus manuscripts of two works, one on the Russian emigres in Paris, the other on Soviet historians, which were not published in her lifetime. Her autobiography, Kursiv moi, and her biography of Moura Budberg, entitled Zheleznaia zhenshchina, in particular, are extensively documented in this archive. These files include typescript drafts of the Russian version of the autobiography and uncorrected proofs of the English edition, The Italics Are Mine. For the Budberg biography, there is a complete typescript of the work and extensive research notes. Research notes on index cards for two books, Liudi i lozhi and Zheleznaia zhenshchina are filed under Note Cards in the Oversize section.

Although the manuscripts of her four novels written in the 1920s and 1930s are not present, three are represented in the Novels subseries by a folder containing reviews of them.

The early typescripts of Berberova's highly popular cycle of short stories known as Biiankurskie prazdniki are included in the third subseries, Stories. Unfortunately, the collection does not contain manuscripts of most of Berberova's other stories published before 1950; their whereabouts have not been determined, if they survive at all. Materials for the majority of the later stories, however, including reviews and publication material concerning post-1985 translations, are present.

The next subseries, Poetry, includes the holograph of a poem Berberova wrote in childhood, and the entire issue of the journal containing her first published poem. Berberova's three plays are documented in the fifth subseries, Plays. There is a holograph of Madame, a typescript of Little Girl, and a typescript of the unfinished work, TSyrk.

Berberova's shorter non-fictional writings are represented in the sixth through ninth sections. Articles and Book Reviews include typescripts as well as research notes and clippings. The section Prefaces and Notes to Books is comprised of typescripts and printed versions of Berberova's editorial work. Her activities as a translator are documented in Translations, which contains holographs, typescripts and offprints of her translations from 1922 onward.

The Lectures and Course Plans document Berberova's career as an instructor of Russian literature. Two early lectures on Russian emigres (1923) and Tchaikovsky (1938) also can be found in the Lectures subseries.

Reviews of Berberova's writings and general articles about her life are contained in the final subseries under Writings.

Series III, Subject Files , includes holograph notes, photocopies and clippings pertaining to people and topics that were of particular interest to Berberova. The material is organized into two subseries: Individuals and Organizations and Topical.

Series IV, Personal Papers , includes Berberova's diaries from 1960 through 1993, papers concerning Khodasevich and other documents of a personal nature. Of particular interest in the Dedications and Inscriptions in the third subseries are an inscription from 1916 by Nikolai Gumilev and offprints with Khodasevich's inscriptions to Berberova.

Portraits and photographs of Berberova spanning the entirety of her life are found in Series V, Photographs . There are family portraits from the 1910s and 1920s, as well as photographs of Berberova at age 12 and age 24. A rich collection of snapshots shows Berberova together with a number of contemporaries and friends, including Khodasevich. In addition, there are photographs of third parties such as Vladimir Mayakovksy and François Mitterrand.

Series VI, Memorabilia and Personal Effects , contains personal effects of Khodasevich, including his cigarette case and a lock of his hair, and academic hoods for the honorary degrees Berberova received. The recordings in Series VII, Audio and Video Tapes include tapes of radio and television interviews of Berberova. There is also a cassette tape of Berberova reading selections from her own poetry.

Series VIII, The Vladislav Khodasevich Papers , consists of a portion of Khodasevich's correspondence from the years 1923-39, and some of his writings, including articles, poetry and notes, preserved by Berberova.

Series IX, Materials Removed from Books , contains notes, clippings, and ephemera that were separated from the printed component of the Nina Berberova Papers when the books were cataloged in 1998. The description of each item includes the bibliographic information concerning the book from which it was removed.

Series X, Printed Materials , contains articles, issues of journals, and books. Some of the materials were annotated by Berberova.

Series XI, Microfilm Strips , contains cut microfilm of papers relating to Lili Brik, Osip Brik, Vladmimir Mayakovsky, and others. Location of original materials is unspecified. Positive contact prints have been made to assist researchers in examining the material. No further processing of this material is planned, per curatorial decision.

Language of Materials

Chiefly in Russian, English, French and German.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 56 (audiovisual material): Restricted fragile. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Restricted Fragile Papers Restricted fragile material in boxes 63-64. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Nina Berberova Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Nina Berberova, 1962-1990, and of her estate, 1994.

Associated Materials

In addition to the archive, many of Berberova's books are preserved in the Beinecke library, many of them inscribed to her, such as Akhmatova's Anno Domini MCMXXI and Merezhkovsky's TSarstvo antikhrista. A number have been annotated by Berberova as well.

1891 - 1993
Majority of material found within 1950 - 1993
43.83 Linear Feet ((77 boxes) + 1 broadside folder)
Related Names
Berberova, N. (Nina), 1901-1993
Khodasevich, V. F. (Vladislav Felit͡sianovich), 1886-1939
Language of Materials
Multiple languages