E. M. Almedingen Critical Essays

Introduction

E. M. Almedingen 1898–1971

(Born Martha Edith von Almedingen) Almedingen was a Russian-born British novelist, translator, lecturer, poet, playwright, and short story writer. She is best known for her biographical and autobiographical novels for young adults, many of which draw upon her Russian heritage and family history. Born in St. Petersburg (now Leningrad), a city fondly remembered in many of her works, she was a distinguished student and later teacher of medieval history and literature at the University of Petrograd. The years 1917–22 were pivotal for her as well as for Russia; she survived the revolution and later wrote about her experiences in My Saint Petersburg: A Reminiscence of Childhood and Tomorrow Will Come. Almedingen, who emigrated to England in 1923, wrote for almost twenty years before she achieved critical recognition with the publication of Tomorrow Will Come, which was awarded the 1941 Atlantic Monthly prize for best nonfiction book of the year. One of her most popular books, Katia, is based on her great-aunt Catherine Almedingen's best-selling autobiography, The Story of a Little Girl. Although she was a prolific writer who wrote for adults, teenagers, and children, most critics agree that Almedingen's most successful works are her translated ancestral diaries and accounts, interwoven with Russian history and her personal reminiscences. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 3.)

Grimness and splendour, personal and dynastic, are the keynotes of The Nibelunglied, the German heroic epic, on which The Treasure of Siegfried is based. [Miss Almedingen] has achieved an exceptionally clean story line, yet enveloped it in a panoply and fairy-tale atmosphere that is positively Wagnerian. Indeed young music enthusiasts who read this may find it a great help towards understanding the monumental framework and Teutonic intensity of Wagner's work on the same theme. (p. 371)

The Junior Bookshelf, December, 1964.