The Book of Happiness, by Nina Berberova

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The Book of Happiness

by Nina Berberova

Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz

New Directions, 2002.

The Book of Happiness is the most autobiographical of the novels the great Russian writer Nina Berberova (1901-1993) wrote during the years she lived in Paris. "All Berberova's characters live raw, unfurnished lives, in poverty, on the edge of cities, with little sense of belonging––except in moments of epiphany––to their time and in life itself" (The Observer). Such a character is Vera, the protagonist of The Book of Happiness. At the novel's opening, Vera is summoned to the scene of a suicide, that of her closest childhood companion, Sam Adler, whose family left Russia in the early days of the revolution and whom Vera has not seen in many years. From here Berberova spins the story with a wonderful unsentimental poignancy, creating a lasting testament to the indestructibility of happiness.


"In this elegant translation by Marian Schwartz, Berberova comes as close as humanly possible to reproducing the sensation of joy." --Mary Park

"Marian Schwartz, the translator of this and previous works, helps to round out the picture with this novel, giving voice to Berberova's finely tuned, tersely evocative fiction." -- Publishers Weekly

"As limpidly preserved by Marian Schwartz's translation, Berberova's is a prose of small gestures, pregnant moments, and memories polished bright as sea pebbles by the constant tumbling of thought." -- Washington Post

"In the past decade, American readers have with the publication of "The Ladies from St. Petersburg," been graced with her fiction (translated with precision and elegance by Marian Schwartz)." -- Boston Book Review


  • New York Times
  • Publishers Weekly
  • Washington Post
  • Washington Post Book World
  • Boston Book Review
  • Review of Contemporary Fiction
  • Magill's Literary Annual

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