The picaresque story of 96-year-old Lily Bourbon, who marries her way from prostitute to Poet Laureate in the USSR and finds a new life in the U.S. Madonna from Russia is fiction with Druzhnikov’s unique combination of satire, humour and documentary twist.
"Lily Bourbon is the star of ...the novel and, since she is so monstrously selfish and manipulative, strangely admirable. Her meretricious qualities extend to having fraudulently created a reputation for herself as a major poet by publishing the work of her husband (talented but banned) under her own name." The Guardian.
* * *
Lily was a beautiful young prostitute recruited by the Bolsheviks to service the Communist elite. At the age of twenty-three she makes a fortuitous marriage to Andrei Bourbon, poet, Futurist and artistic colleague of Malevich, Mayakovsky, Burliuk and others. One day Bourbon takes some of Lily’s poems to the official children’s newspaper Pionerskaya Pravda*.
* Pionerskaya Pravda (Пионе́рская Пра́вда) is an all-Russian newspaper founded in March 6, 1925 in Moscow. In the 1970s and 1980s its circulation approached 10,000,000 (almost every child in the Soviet Union had a subscription)
With the aid of an airbrushed and suitably ‘revolutionary’ biography, her poems are published as children’s books. Before long, she is made poet laureate and feted as an idealized symbol of the Soviet era, while Andrei, after being incarcerated in a mental hospital by Lily, disappears in the purges.
After the collapse of several marriages—and the Soviet Union—she leaves Russia for the United States. This is where we meet her, still striking-looking and engaged to a naive American, starting out again at the age of ninety-six.
Blacklisted until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the first edition of this novel sold a quarter of a million copies and was deemed one of the ten best Russian novels of the century at the 1999 Warsaw Conference. In 2001 the author was put forward by Poland for the Nobel Prize.
Hardcover / 220 pages / $36.00
Available copy: 1