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The Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume II

December I, 1920

To Sydney Schiff

About the Russians. I agree that translations are perfectly terrible. The peculiar flatness of them is so strange and it's just that flatness which the story or whatever it is mustn't have—One feels it's superimposed. And yet—and yet—though I hate to agree with so many silly critics I confess that Tchehov does seem to me a marvellous writer. I do think a story like In Exile or Missing is frankly incomparable. (It's years since I read de Maupassant: I must read him again)—And then Tolstoi—well, you know, Anna's journey in the train when she finds Vronsky is travelling to St. Petersburg too and the whole whole figure of Anna—when I think how real, how vital, how vivid she is to me—I feel I can't be grateful enough to Tolstoi—by grateful—I mean full of praise to him for his works.

Will you lend me Marcel Proust when you come out this time? I don't feel qualified to speak of him.

I wonder what you'll think of this little Isola Bella. It's very small. The windows have got little cotton velveteen trousers put up by me in place of the dreadful little chemises that hung there on my arrival. And I have an old servant, a butter and sugar thief—who is an artist in her way—a joy. Her feeling for hot plates and for what dear Henry James might call the real right gravy is supreme. These things are so important. I don't think I could love a person who liked gravylene or browno or whatever they call it.