Moura: The Dangerous Life of the Baroness Budberg
by Nina Berberova
Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz and Richard D. Sylvester
New York Review Books, 2005
Baroness Maria Ignatievna Zakrevskaya Benckendorff Budberg hailed from the Russian aristocracy and lived in the lap of luxury—until the Bolshevik Revolution forced her to live by her wits. Thereafter her existence was a story of connivance and stratagem, a succession of unlikely twists and turns. Intimately involved in the mysterious Lockhart affair, a conspiracy which almost brought down the fledgling Soviet state, mistress to Maxim Gorky and then to H.G. Wells, Moura was a woman of enormous energy, intelligence, and charm whose deepest passion was undoubtedly the mythologization of her own life.
Recognized as one of the great masters of Russian twentieth-century fiction, Nina Berberova here proves again that she is the unsurpassed chronicler of the lives of Soviet émigrés. In Moura Budberg, a woman who shrouded the facts of her life in fiction, Berberova finds the ideal material from which to craft a triumph of literary portraiture, a book as engaging and as full of life and incident as any one of her celebrated novels.