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Douglas Smith presents Konstantin Paustovsky’s ‘The Story of a Life’ at TMORA-West

Saturday, July 15, 2023 from 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

$5 – $12

Please note this event will take place at TMORA-West. TMORA-West is The Museum of Russian Art’s new satellite education and events facility. It is very close to the Museum, conveniently located at 5904 Pleasant Avenue, just a few blocks south of Diamond Lake Road. Parking is available in the TMORA-West parking lot. We regret to inform you that this building is not fully accessible and does require climbing stairs. Please contact us if you have questions about accessibility: [email protected]

The Museum of Russian Art proudly presents a special evening with internationally-acclaimed historian and translator Douglas Smith.

The Story of a Life by Konstantin Paustovsky, translated from the Russian by Douglas Smith

An NYRB Classics Original

In 1943, the Soviet author Konstantin Paustovsky started out on what would prove a masterwork, The Story of a Life, a grand, novelistic memoir of a life spent on the ravaged frontier of Russian history. Eventually expanding to fill six volumes, this extraordinary work of a lifetime would establish Paustovsky as one of Russia’s great writers and lead to a nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Here the first three books of Paustovsky’s epic autobiography—long unavailable in English—appear in a splendid new translation by Douglas Smith. Taking the reader from Paustovsky’s Ukrainian youth, his family struggling on the verge of collapse, through the first stirrings of writerly ambition, to his experiences working as a paramedic on the front lines of World War I and then as a journalist covering Russia’s violent spiral into revolution, this vivid and suspenseful story of coming-of-age in a time of troubles is lifted by the energy and lyricism of Paustovsky’s prose and marked throughout by his deep love of the natural world. The Story of a Life is a dazzling achievement of modern literature.

“One of the great Russian autobiographies, as fresh now as the day it was written—and the day it was lived.” – Julian Barnes

“No review can do justice to this book. For 800 pages, Paustovsky is the reader’s companion on a journey that seems to encompass all of life, one suffused throughout by the author’s optimism. The length may seem daunting and the names alien to those unfamiliar with Russian literature, but the book offers a powerful literary experience for which no recommendation can be as high or as fervent as this terrific book is for itself.” – Eric Vanderwall, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The evening will feature Douglas Smith in conversation with Chuck Ritchie, well-known Russian history and language teacher, linguist, and TMORA Board Chair.

Doors open at 6:00 pm | Presentation begins at 7:00 pm | Q&A will directly follow the presentation


The book will be available for purchase at the event. Seating is general admission. 

TICKETS:  General Admission $12 |  TMORA Member  $10  |  Student $5



An award-winning historian and translator, Douglas Smith is the author of six books on Russia. His works have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He studied German and Russian at the University of Vermont, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and has a doctorate in history from UCLA.

Over the past thirty years Douglas has made many trips to Russia. In the 1980s, he was a Russian-speaking guide on the U.S. State Department’s exhibition “Information USA” that traveled throughout the USSR. He worked as a Soviet affairs analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich and has served as an interpreter for late President Reagan.

Douglas has taught and lectured widely in the United States, Britain, and Europe and has appeared in documentaries for National Geographic, the BBC, and Netflix. He is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including a Guggenheim fellowship, Fulbright scholarship, and a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study Center.

His book Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy was a bestseller in the UK. It won the inaugural Pushkin House Russian Book Prize in 2013, was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, and was chosen Book of the Year by Andrew Solomon in Salon. His 2016 biography Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs was a finalist for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Douglas’s new translation of Konstantin Paustovsky’s epic memoir, The Story of a Life, published by Vintage Classics in the UK in 2022 and by New York Review Books in the US in 2023, has received widespread critical praise.

He recently launched a site dedicated to the film and movie archive of Major Martin J. Manhoff, a stunning, one-of-a-kind visual record of the Soviet Union in the Stalin years.

Douglas is now at work on a book titled The City Without Jews, a history of the destruction of Jewish Vienna under the Nazis that highlights the remarkable story of Mignon Langnas.

A native of Minnesota, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Stephanie Ellis-Smith.

Photo credit: Robert Wade

Chuck Ritchie holds an AB in Russian Civilization from Dartmouth College and a MAT from Indiana University in Teaching of Russian. During his military service, he was stationed outside Seoul, Korea, as a linguist and then returned to Minneapolis, where he taught Russian and Social Studies at the Blake School for 36 years. He was the Dean of the Concordia Russian Language Village for 18 summers. His first trip to Russia was in the late ’60s, when he led a group of young people from the YMCA. He has since returned to Russia 46 times. For 22 years, Chuck served as the Chair of CONNECT US/USSR, hosting several delegations from the former Soviet Union and Russia. Currently, he is the Chair of Siberian Bridges, an organization dedicated to creating contacts between peoples of the Midwest and the Zabaikal Region of Russia, and the Board Chair of The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA).


Saturday, July 15, 2023
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
$5 – $12


5904 Pleasant Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55419 United States
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