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A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury: The Life and Times of Samuel Koteliansky Hardcover – October 17, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Now, at long last, Kot has been made the subject of a full-size biography. Galya Diment makes ample use of previously unpublished material, often held in private archives, to give the fullest picture yet of Kot's controversial personality." -- Times Literary Supplement

"Galya Diment's handsome biography delivers the voice of the man as well as the complexity of his life. He could hardly have asked for a more rigorous and thoughtful scholar to write his biography." -- Woolf Studies Annual

"[A]n engrossing and illuminating full-length biography by Nabokov scholar Galya Diment....  It is a strength of this book that the author confronts the flaws in her subject's character and engages the reader in the poignancy of his life." -- Virginia Woolf Bulletin

"We owe Galya Diment... a debt of gratitude for the exhaustive way she has brought to life a genuine part of London's literati scene at a vital time." -- Camden New Journal

"Diment's sensitivity and interest in her subject stem from her own self-described love of English literature; her research (traveling to modern-day Ukraine...); her own family's legacy as Leningrad Jews who experienced, survived and left the Soviet Union.... With rabbinic ancestry on her father's side and Bolshevik on her mother's, Diment presents a mixture of differing Jewish experiences..." --JTNews

Galya Diment's biography... certainly makes an important contribution to Lawrence studies as well as to cultural histories of the period" -- D.H. Lawrence Review

"Rather than interpret her subject's choices, Diment simply lays them out for readers, to make of them what they will. While it may seem odd to write the biography of such an intensely private man, the quirkiness of Kot, plus the catty intimacy of Bloomsbury, add up to a surprisingly engaging read." --Jewish Book Council

"The greatness of A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury is how easily and fully it immerses you not into the stream of Kot's mind but the relationships that constituted his world." --The Stranger

"Endlessly fascinating to those who are interested in these two topics: English literature of the early twentieth century, especially D. H. Lawrence and the minutiae of the personal lives and relationships of some members of the Bloomsbury group; and what it meant to be a Jew in Russia, both before and after the revolution, as well as in England in the first half of the twentieth century." -- Slavic Review

"Galya Diment has done it again. The author of the acclaimed Pniniad, about Nabokov's major model for his legendary Russian lecturer, now turns to another Russian Jew with a still wider resonance in English literature. Part biography, part cultural history of the early twentieth-century impact of Russian literature on English literature (focusing on Koteliansky as a conduit and catalyst), and part exploration of being Jewish and foreign in England and in Bloomsbury, the book teems with vivid vignettes of the emotionally complicated Koteliansky, his close friend D.H. Lawrence (and his foe Frieda Lawrence), Katherine Mansfield, Virginia and Leonard Woolf, H.G. Wells, and many more. A fascinating read for lovers of literature, culture, history, and personality." Brian Boyd, author of Vladimir Nabokov and On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction

"A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury brings to light the life of a significant yet regrettably little-known figure. It is a fascinating look into how Jewishness, as well as Russianness, figured in the circles of a number of eminent twentieth-century writers. In t

"In Diment's lively, perceptive, and sympathetic but objective biography, Kot steps out of the shadows and takes center stage." Booklist starred review

From the Inside Flap

"Vividly written, A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury fills the gap in understanding why England's writers and artists were drawn to the difficult and a colorful occupant of 5 Acacia Road." -- George Zytaruk, author of The Quest for Rananim: D. H. Lawrence's Letters to S.S. Koteliansky

"Galya Diment's A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury makes a genuine contribution to English literary culture in the first half of the 20th century." -- Keith Cushman, author of D. H. Lawrence at Work

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press (October 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0773538992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0773538993
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,160,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Koteliansky - Kot to his friends - has always fascinated me. He hovered around on the fringes of Bloomsbury - an unlikely figure - and was influential in the lives of Katherine Mansfield and DH Lawrence. He was also a passionate advocate of Russian literature and translated a great deal of it into English, introducing some little known authors to a western audience for the first time.

Most people were in awe of his moral integrity and passionately held principles. 'Kot was not a comfortable man,' wrote Leonard Woolf in his obituary. Kot had a crushing handshake and such an air of 'rightness' that some people maintained it wasn't possible to tell a lie in his presence. Lawrence nicknamed him 'Jehovah' and Katherine Mansfield said that he reminded her of an Old Testament Prophet.

Until I read Galya Diment's biography, I hadn't understood Kot's complex personality or his background and I was completely unaware of the struggle he had to establish himself in London and support himself as a refugee with no skills other than literacy. I was also unaware of the extent of anti-semitic feeling and prejudice in England at that time. Virginia Woolf used to refer to her husband Leonard as The Jew in public, and even in his presence - Leonard did not interpret it as a playful nickname - he was grimly aware of how he was regarded. Virginia had told him in a letter that it was 'his Jewishness' that she disliked and which had given her second thoughts when she considered marrying him. In her 1915 diary she wrote; 'How I hated marrying a Jew!'

There were a number of other Jews hovering around the fringes of Bloomsbury at that time - the painter Mark Gertler was one of them and he too was a close friend of Kot, regarding him as something of a father-figure.
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