Henri Troyat Henri Peyre - Essay

Henri Peyre

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["My Father's House"] has less psychological originality than Troyat's early novels. It is the first part of a trilogy in which the author has made his most ambitious bid to win popular success and to provide a counterpart to the great Russian saga novels of the nineteenth century. The plot is tenuous, but the reader's attention is engrossed by many thrilling incidents which serve to draw a vivid and comprehensive picture of Russian life between 1888 and 1914….

The author has tried to strike a happy balance between creating flesh-and-blood individuals and making those individuals typical of different groups of Russians. Only the common people are left out. At times, the characters serve as pretexts for inserting brilliant descriptions of Cherkess horseriders, Armenian marriage and burial customs, snowstorms on the steppe, battlefield scenes, riots in the revolution of 1905, etc. Yet Troyat's skill is such that the slight artificiality of his all-embracing purpose is not resented by the reader, who is carried away by an immense narrative talent and by the unflagging sweep of the storytelling….

Troyat's novel does not have all the psychological acuteness which one might expect from a modern French writer and not quite enough turbid conflict of motives for a compatriot and student of Dostoevski….

["My Father's House"] holds an original place among the fictional works of our age inspired by a great country which has isolated itself from the rest of the world and has regrettably ceased to be known by and through her fiction.

Henri Peyre, "The Rise of Michael Danov," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1951 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 14, 1951, p. 5.