Red Princess | Granta

  • Published: 04/02/2008
  • ISBN: 9781862079922
  • 130x20mm
  • 368 pages

Red Princess

Sofka Zinovieff

Princess Sophy (‘Sofka’) Dolgorouky was born in St Petersburg in 1907. Members of the imperial family had attended her parents’ wedding earlier that same year, and the child was born into a privileged world of nurses, private tutors and elegant tea parties. The Russian Revolution caused the princess to flee to England, but it was the Second World War that left the deepest marks on her adult life as she left her first husband and lost her second. Later, she was interned in a Nazi prison camp, where she discovered Communism and defended the rights of the Jewish prisoners. It was her Communism which took her back to the Soviet Union as an improbable tour guide for British workers. And Communism, albeit indirectly, brought her the last love of her life, Jack, a working-class Londoner who had never been abroad. Sofka’s colourful life also included a close friendship with Laurence Olivier, innumerable lovers, some serious, some quickly discarded, and an abiding love of reading and especially poetry. This affectionate portrait of the ‘red princess’ by her granddaughter and namesake uses letters, diaries and interviews to recreate a vanished world and explore the author’s own Russian roots.

[A] piercing portrait of an extraordinary woman who was both a Russian princess and a communist


... a life of eccentricity and excess; of loss and exile; of courage, and of cruelty that reverberated down the generations. Red Princess is a small memorial to all the lives dislodged by the shifting sands of modern history


... anyone reading about her sizzling charm, guts and literary gifts can't help thinking it would have been fun to know her

The Economist

The Author

Sofka Zinovieff is a journalist born in England and of Russian extraction. She studied anthropology at Cambridge. After spells living in Russia and Italy, she settled with her family in Greece, an experience which she described in her highly acclaimed first book, Eurydice Street, which has been translated into three languages.

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From the Same Author

Eurydice Street

Sofka Zinovieff

Sofka Zinovieff had fallen in love with Greece as a student, but little suspected that years later she would return for good with an expatriate Greek husband and two young daughters. This book is a wonderfully fresh, funny and inquiring account of her first year as an Athenian. The whole family have to get to grips with their new life and identities: the children start school and tackle a new language, and Sofka’s husband, Vassilis, comes home after half a lifetime away. Meanwhile, Sofka resolves to get to know her new city and become a Greek citizen, which turns out to be a process of Byzantine complexity. As the months go by, Sofka’s discovers how memories of Athens’ past haunt its present in its music, poetry and history. She also learns about the difficult art of catching a taxi, the importance of smoking, the unimportance of time-keeping, and how to get your Christmas piglet cooked at the baker’s.