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Memoirs of Catherine the Great


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About the Author

About the Translators

Mark Cruse has a Ph.D. in French literature from New York University and teaches at Arizona State University. Hilde Hoogenboom received her Ph.D. in Russian literature from Columbia University and teaches Russian and translation at the State University of New York at Albany.


This new English translation of the memoirs of Catherine the Great (1729-96; r. 1762-96)-the first undertaken through study of the original manuscript-presents her third and final memoir, which overlaps somewhat with two earlier memoirs. Here she recounts life at the Russian court of Empress Elizabeth from 1744 when, as Princess Sophie, of a distantly related German family, she was summoned there, until 1759, three years before her own ascent to the Russian throne. Catherine's memoirs offer both quotidian details (her boredom, her various pastimes) and historical ones (the intrigues, arrests, and wars). As translators Cruse (French, NYU) and Hoogenboom (Russian literature, SUNY at Albany) point out in their erudite, if occasionally esoteric, preface, Catherine writes with a mission-to present herself as an enlightened ruler and the rightful heir to the throne. Still, as the translators argue, to marginalize the memoir as only a blatant justification for seizing the throne is to neglect its importance in tracing Catherine's evolution as a ruler. Indeed, as a primary source, it is essential for most academic and larger public libraries; it can be a riveting reading, if one can sort out all the players (the appendixes help).-Tania Barnes, Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Advance praise for The Memoirs of Catherine the Great

"Superb. The translation of the Memoirs is fluid, accessible, and idiomatic, while remaining accurate and as delightful as the original. Students will heartily enjoy this excursion into the historical and literary world of the great empress."
-Cynthia Hyla Whittaker, professor and chair, Department of History, Baruch College/CUNY "Several translations of the memoirs of Catherine the Great have been published before, but none of them can compare with this latest edition. Mark Cruse and Hilde Hoogenboom have produced a masterpiece. Their translation fairly sings, capturing with stunning virtuosity all the beguiling wit and charm that make these memoirs one of the most fascinating works ever penned by a European monarch."
-Douglas Smith, editor and translator of Love and Conquest: Personal Correspondence of Catherine the Great and Prince Grigory Potemkin

"Catherine the Great's memoirs are a classic and almost unique record of personality and power, the work of one of history's greatest and most alluring leaders but also of a young girl trapped in a sinister court and a miserable marriage-this new edition is the best for decades and the one for both general and scholarly readers to use."
-Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Potemkin: Catherine the Great's Imperial Partner and Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar "A richly textured account of the turbulent years the young Grand Duchess spent at the court of the Empress Elizabeth. No serious student of Catherine's life and reign will want to be without this splendid new edition. It casts a completely new light on the composition of the Empress's extraordinary memoirs."
-Professor Simon M. Dixon, chairman, School of History, University of Leeds "Catherine's memoirs are one of the most fascinating documents of the eighteenth century. This translation will give the English-speaking audience a unique chance to learn about the life of this extraordinary woman from her own story."
-Professor Alexandr Kamenskii, chair, Early and Early Modern Russian History, The Russian State University for the Humanities "This fluent and unabridged translation of one of the most remarkable documents of eighteenth-century history, based on the original French manuscript of the text that Catherine revised in 1794, is preceded by a substantial scholarly preface tracing the fascinating story of the memoirs' composition, sources, literary style, and fate after Catherine's death. Researchers, teachers, and general readers alike will welcome this book."
-Lindsey Hughes, University College London

Catherine the Great's memoirs have long been seen as a self-serving attempt to justify her seizing the throne from her husband, Peter III. This fresh, clean translation (the first in English to be based on the original manuscripts), although it provides insight into the mind of the ruler and the Russian court, is unlikely to change that assessment. The memoirs cover the years before Catherine (1729-1796) became empress in 1762. As the memoir makes clear, Catherine, born a German princess, had a hard time adjusting to life in the Russian court, which she considered backward. Her marriage to Peter III was unhappy from the start, and she makes no bones about her unhappiness with him and his mistresses. At the same time, she rationalizes her own dalliances: "I have just said I was attractive. As a result, I was already halfway along the road to temptation...." The translators provide a substantial introduction, but readers without prior knowledge of Catherine the Great might want to have Isabel de Madariaga's biography of the czar on hand for reference. Color illus., 2 maps, not seen by PW. Agent, Giles Anderson. (July 12) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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