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Tatiana Kudriavtseva of Columbia died Sept. 29, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | 5:51 p.m. CDT

MOSCOW — Tatiana Alexseyevna Kudriavtseva, 93, one of Russia’s pre-eminent translators of English language literature into Russian, died in a hospital here Sept. 29. The cause of death was heart failure.

She lived with her daughter, Nina Kudriavtseva-Loory, in Columbia every year for 13 years and was well-known in mid-Missouri. She spoke often at the University of Missouri and various groups in the city and attended book club meetings.

Ms. Kudriavtseva translated the works of Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, John Updike, William Styron, Arthur Miller, John Steinbeck, Arthur Hailey, John Le Carrè and Graham Greene among dozens of others. She rendered over eighty volumes from English into Russian. She was also a translator for the Soviet Foreign Ministry, for her country’s delegation to UNESCO in Paris for several years and once translated for French President Charles de Gaulle. She was also a champion of Soviet-American cultural exchange during the height of the Cold War, and she received awards from the Russian-American Cultural Cooperation Foundation and the American Bookseller’s Association in Washington for that work in November 2002.

She was a personal friend of many of the authors she worked with, often entertaining them in her modest apartment in Moscow or visiting them in their homes. She often stayed with Norman Mailer at his homes on Brooklyn Heights and Provincetown, Mass., or with Gore Vidal in Italy or his home in Los Angeles. She liked to tell the story of how she once had Vidal and Mailer to dinner in Moscow when they were both in a cultural exchange program and hearing them argue over who was the better writer.

In 1962, John Steinbeck visited Moscow. Ms. Kudriavstseva, then working for Foreign Literature magazine, greeted him at the airport. He asked if he was a well-known writer in the Soviet Union and she replied, according to her memoir, “Of course, after all we have published The Grapes of Wrath, The Winter of Our Discontent, and now, Travels with Charlie in Search of America.”

A week later she met Steinbeck at a reception held by the Union of Writers and he told the story of how, unable to get a taxi cab, he went out into the Manezh Square between the Kremlin and the National Hotel and sat in the snow hoping a cab would see him and stop. Instead a militiaman approached and ordered him to stand up. “I am an American writer,” he said in Russian. The militiaman saluted and said “Mr. Hemingway!”

“But Tanya,” she quoted Mr. Steinbeck as saying, “you said they know me here!”

Ms. Kudriavtseva waged an 18-year battle with the Communist Party hierarchy to publish Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. She started in 1968 and received a go-ahead to do the translation but when that was revealed in a newspaper article, the publication was banned because of the way it portrayed relations between white plantation owners and their slaves. She kept lobbying and kept getting turned down. The main opponent to the publication was Gus Hall, then the head of the Communist Party of the United States.

Ms. Kudriavtseva was born in March 1920 into a bourgeois family in Leningrad. During her childhood years her father and uncles – merchants – were arrested and sent to labor camps. The uncles all died. Her father was released but spent the rest of his life in exile to a small village in Estonia. She learned French from a tutor and attended Leningrad University where she studied Japanese. Ms. Kudriavtseva moved to Moscow in 1938 and enrolled in the Army Foreign Language Institute where she continued her study of Japanese. When World War II broke out, she began her study of English as well

In October 1941, when it looked as if Moscow might fall to the Nazis, she and her classmates were inducted into the Red Army as lieutenants and made students in the Eastern Faculty of the Military Institute for Foreign Languages.

On the train to Eastern Russia, she met Yuri Semyonov and they were married. He was a Chinese expert in the foreign ministry and assigned to China before the Chinese Communist won the revolution there. He was arrested on charges of being too close to the Chinese nationalist and sent to a labor camp. Ms. Kudriavtseva divorced him and later married Nikolai Taube, a screenwriter and journalist.

After the arrest of her first husband she was fired by the Foreign Ministry but through her connections managed to get temporary jobs with TASS, the Soviet Government news agency, and then with publishing houses that produced translations of foreign literature. In 2008 she published Sudden Turnings of Fate, a memoir.

She is survived by her daughter, Nina Kudriavtseva-Loory, a former Bolshoi Ballet dancer and executive in the theater as well as now artistic director of Benois de la Danse, an international ballet award; a grandson; and two great grandchildren.


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