Lina Prokofiev(part 2)

The quality and accuracy of the interviews are uneven due to Lina’s “advanced” age (as she puts it), even though her mind was amazingly alive. As she repeatedly states, the interviews were done to trigger her memory, after which she intended to check dates and factual details against the written sources at her disposal, and which she considered fully reliable: Prokofiev’s Autobiography, his private correspondence and papers (now at the Prokofiev Archive in London), and finally the memoirs she had been invited to write in 1961, only five years after she was released from the camps. “I did write an article for a book of articles and I will go into detail some other time about how it was proposed to me. I had just returned from the North where I had been away eight years and of course I had nothing, no notes, no nothing. But my son had photographs, and so little by little I started to reinstate my memory, facts.” [See: L. Prokof’eva (Llubera), “Iz vospominanii”, in I. Nest’ev i G. Edel’man, Sergei Prokof’ev 1953-1963: stat’i i materialy, (Sovetskii Kompozitor, Moskva, 1962).]
     Lina’s response to the interviewing process changed as the conversations progressed. Whereas at first she had prepared herself, attempting to read from notes, soon her recollections become disorganised, distant events competing in her memory with more recent ones. Under the hold of her own emotions, she jumps from one topic or one period to another and, with both determination and frustration, tries to force her memory to remember. But if at times she contradicts herself over dates and factual details, her recollection of people and relationships is amazingly lucid and detailed. In this, I believe, lie the strength and attraction of Lina’s conversations. “I remember a lot of things in spite of my advanced age. In Russia for instance they think that after a certain age people lose their memory. Well, I may not have a good memory for things that happened a month ago or even last year perhaps, [...] but what I do remember is every moment of my life, or almost; and especially what concerned my life with him.”
     There were subjects she never touched, in particular life in Russia. She was clearly traumatised by her tragic experiences there, and still in fear of reprisals, avoided naming people connected with Russia. She bluntly refused to answer those questions she deemed inappropriate, and professed to be determined to talk about her own experiences only, not about what she repeatedly and scornfully called “hearsay”, rumours, other people’s interpretations of events that had affected her husband, herself and their family. Unsurprisingly, therefore, she showed particular contempt for musicologists and biographers, regularly putting in question the reliability of their sources and the integrity of their discourse. Proud to be nearly the last person who could remember “him” in such detail, she was deeply irritated by western writers who wrote about Prokofiev without consulting her. Likewise, she still resented Russian writers who, many years previously and for political reasons, disregarded her existence and “wrote as little as possible of the life before we came to Russia. And even in Russia, they considered that I and his family had nothing to do with his work. But anyone knows that the atmosphere created around a composer and his work have a lot to do with his relationship with his family, because he is not a machine or a tape recorder that you put on when you like! You share all the time, especially since we were very close.”
     Lina’s reactions to the interviewing process were mixed. Time and again she became irritated with Harvey Sachs, as illustrated in this short extract, in particular when he interrupted her or suggested an answer:

LP – Well you want me to tell you, or are you telling me?
HS – I’m just leading you.
LP – Well then don’t interrupt, because I’m trying to get there but it’s very difficult suddenly. Do you think I’m reading from a book or what?
     On the other hand, she marvelled at being able to remember things she had forgotten, events that had been buried deep in her memory, and which only a skillful interviewer could bring back to the surface:
LP – You are making me so reminisce things I had completely forgotten, because I’m relaxed. And then I get so excited… and I can’t remember anything.
HS – Fun isn’t it?
LP – For me, it’s wonderful; something I’ve been dreaming of...

     The task of putting Lina’s recollections onto paper proved very problematic and called for a number of editorial decisions. A straightforward transcription would have been unreadable, as the interviews mostly consist of incomplete or interrupted sentences, repetitions, contradictions and corrections. As time went on, Lina found it impossible to keep within a chronological framework, which irritated her considerably: “Just now I can’t remember! It’s very well to say that memory has to be illuminated by something that brings a thought on. But chronologically it’s almost impossible for things that happened ever so long ago... with all that came in between... I am not a superwoman!”
     As a result of this, the same events are recounted more than once, but each time in a different light, because in a different context. I had great difficulties in selecting extracts or versions, as it became clear to me that there were two types of memories: Lina’s own, and those I recognised as originating from written sources, and which with time she had adopted as her own. I endeavoured to select the former.
     Finally, there was the issue of style. Should I offer a smooth narrative or attempt to preserve some of Lina’s conversational style, with all its imperfections, but also attraction? Her memory of Serge, the man she had loved, was incredibly vivid and it seemed to me that she had kept him alive through series of lively dialogues, which her emotive memory was reconstructing as she went. I therefore decided to preserve some of these in my script, if only to offer a more faithful image of Lina Prokofiev.    
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