Tatiana Kudriavsteva, prominent English to Russian translator, dies in Moscow

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | 9:58 p.m. CDT; updated 6:58 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 17, 2013

COLUMBIA — Tatiana Alexseyevna Kudriavtseva, a prominent English to Russian translator based in Moscow, spent 18 years lobbying Soviet Union officials to publish a Russian translation of "Gone with the Wind." The Russian government had taken issue with some of the characterizations between slave-owners and their slaves and had banned its publication.

Mrs. Kudriavtseva's efforts prevailed in 1982, and the novel won immediate popularity in Russia.

"We were survivors of the war, like Scarlett," Mrs. Kudriavtseva said in a 2001 interview with CNN. "And this novel was ringing a lot of bells for us. We saw the ravages, we saw the fires, we saw the pilloried villages, we saw the poverty and the hunger."

Tatiana Alexseyevna Kudriavtseva, a frequent visitor to Columbia from 1997 to 2010, died Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Moscow of a heart ailment. She was 93.

Mrs. Kudriavtseva translated more than 80 works from English to Russian, ranging from bestsellers to basic paperbacks, according to a Washington Post article about her life.

"Always she would have some translations with her," her daughter, Nina Kudriavtseva-Loory, said. "She never really retired. She just kept working as a freelance translator."

Tatiana Kudriavtseva was born in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, on March 5, 1920, to Alexei Kudriavtsev and Ginaida Kudriavtseva. During her childhood, her father and her five of her uncles were arrested and sent to labor camps. Four uncles died in the camps, one was released, and her father was released and exiled to Estonia.

She attended Leningrad State University, where she studied Japanese. In 1938 she was selected to attend the Army Foreign Language Institute in Moscow. She continued studying Japanese, and at the start of World War II she started learning English, as well.

The government inducted her into the Red Army in October 1941 as the Nazis approached Moscow.

She met her first husband, Yuri Semyonov, on a train in eastern Russia. Their daughter, Nina, was born in 1943. The two later divorced. She met her second husband, Nikolai Taube, a journalist and screenwriter, at a Georgian resort town on the Black Sea. They married in 1950.

During her life, she translated for the Soviet Foreign Ministry and the Russian Delegation to UNESCO, in addition to translating books.

She met John Steinbeck in 1962 when he flew to Moscow for a conference, after she had translated "The Grapes of Wrath," "The Winter of Our Discontent" and "Travels with Charley: In Search of America." When Mrs. Kudriavtseva met him at the airport, Steinbeck asked her if he was well-known in the Soviet Union. She assured him he was.

Later that week, he told her he had been unable to hail a taxi, and thinking that someone would recognize him, he decided to sit in Manezh Square.

A military man approached him and asked him to move, and he replied in Russian that he was an American writer. "Mr. Hemingway," the man said. She later quoted Steinbeck in her memoir, "Sudden Turnings of Fate," as saying, "You said they know me here!"

In later years, Mrs. Kudriavtseva flew to Columbia every winter to stay with her daughter, Kudriavtseva-Loory, and her son-in-law, Stuart Loory, professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism. She would often arrive in November and stay until April.

"She became well known in Columbia," Loory said.

She attended services at Congregation Beth Shalom, attended a local book club and often spoke at MU.

Without her own vehicle and accustomed to hailing taxis with her hand, per Moscow custom, Mrs. Kudriavtseva once flagged down a car on Old 63. A surprised driver stopped and picked her up. The driver was William Taft, a retired MU journalism professor.

"There was a big laugh about that," Loory said.

Mrs. Kudriavtseva and Taft became friends after that.

In 2001, John Updike visited Columbia to give a speech, and the Loory family hosted a reception at their home. Friends for many years, Updike once praised Mrs. Kudriavstseva as a woman of "high intelligence and aesthetic passion," according to the Washington Post.

Mrs. Kudriavtseva is survived by her daughter, Nina Kudriavtseva-Loory, and her husband, Stuart Loory, of Brooklyn, N.Y; one grandson, Leonid Tarasov, of Moscow; and two great-grandchildren, Konstantine Tarasova and Arseny Tarasov.

Her husband, Nikolai Taube, died earlier.

A funeral service was held in Moscow.

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