Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Memoirs of a Muse

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Memoirs of a Muse

A Novel

by Lara Vapnyar

Memoirs of a Muse by Lara Vapnyar X
Memoirs of a Muse by Lara Vapnyar
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2006, 224 pages
    Apr 2007, 224 pages

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Beyond the Book

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Lara Vapnyar emigrated from Russia to New York in 1994 and began publishing short stories in English in 2002. She lives on Staten Island and is pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at CUNY Graduate Center. The inspiration for Memoirs of a Muse came from her graduate studies.  One of her options for a PhD project was to translate an important but previously not translated, work into English, and she chose A Stranger and an Intimate, a novella written by Dostovesky's mistresss, Apollinaria Suslova, which tells a story of two characters who are thinly disguised versions of Suslova and Dostoevsky.

When asked what the hardest part about emigrating to the USA was for her, she says that it was the inability to find a job that she could do well - "not even prestigious, or lucrative, or even something interesting, but something that would give satisfaction".  It looks like she's found a job that she does well now, and one that is likely to become considerably more lucrative as her reputation and talents develop!

Interesting note: Lara Vapnyar and Irene Nemirovsky (author of Suite Francaise - see above) have something in common in that they both wrote their first books in a foreign tongue within 10 years of emigrating from Russia.

This article was originally published in April 2006, and has been updated for the April 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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