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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Book Presentation: 'A Very Private Affair: A Soviet Dissident's "English Wife" by Pam Wardell (Edinburgh)

17th November 2016, 17:00, Russkiy Mir Centre, A29, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University

A Very Private Affair: A Soviet Dissident’s ‘English Wife’: Presentation of a book by Pam Wardell (Edinburgh)

“A Very Private Affair…” is a story of Speranza Howard (1903-95) who was born and brought up in pre-revolutionary Russia and escaped with her family, in 1920, to London. It is also a story of the Russian writer Boris Pilniak, who visited Britain just once, in 1923, but claimed to have lost his heart to a half-English girl he met in London. The identity of his ‘English wife’ was unknown until in the Russian memorabilia that Edinburgh based writer, Pam Wardell, had stored in her loft, she found two bundles of love letters written by Boris to Speranza, Pam’s aunt, during the period of 1923-29. In her book, Pam Wardell tells two stories in parallel: one about the secret life of her aunt, Speranza, and her love for the Soviet writer, Pilniak; the other about her personal journey to uncover the impact of the Russian Revolution on her family’s history.

Pam Wardell, born and raised in Glasgow, was a BBS Scotland radio producer for over 20 years. In 2001 she turned to her long-cherished project of writing a book about her mother’s family, their years spent in St Petersburg & the dramatic story of their escape from the Russian Revolution. In 2004, with support from the Scottish Arts Council, Pam went to St Petersburg to find the flat where her mother’s family had lived and to Moscow to meet Dagmar Kassek, an academic specialising in Boris Pilniak’s works and biography, who at that time was collecting Pilniak’s letters for publication (Moscow University Press, 2011). Through a unique collaboration with the graphic designer Janey Boyd (Mamook Graphics), Pam has produced a stunningly illustrated account of a 20th century life history which she will present to the audience.

All are welcome!

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