Nostalgia and the Myth of the Belle Époque in Franco-Russian Literature (1920s-1960s)

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Natalia Starostina

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In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, many Russian writers including Ivan Bunin (1870–1953) and Nadezhda Teffi (1872–1952) immigrated to France. Their works were imbued with longing for the bygone epoch and for their lost motherland. In Russian émigré literature, this nostalgic outlook produced the mythology of the Belle Époque as the period of prosperity and social harmony. This romanticized view of the past became integrated in the political and intellectual discourses of two influential French writers, Romain Gary (1914–1980) and Elsa Triolet (1896–1970). The article addresses how Russian nostalgia for a pre-1917 period paved the way for the rise of the myth of the Belle Époque, a myth that became increasingly influential in twentieth-century French history.

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