Cover image for A taste for freedom : the life of Astolphe de Custine
A taste for freedom : the life of Astolphe de Custine
Muhlstein, Anka.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Astolphe de Custine, 1790-1857. English. 1999
Publication Information:
New York : Helen Marx Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
xx, 391 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 19 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Paris : Grasset & Fasquelle, 1996.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PQ2211.C85 M8513 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Ambassador George Kennan once called Astolphe de Custine's Russia in 1839 'The Best guide to Russia ever written.' It was essential, in his view, to understanding Stalin and the Soviet Union. Its author was a cosmopolitain son of the French Revolution, whose father and granfather had been guillotined and whose mother had been imprisoned. Muhlstein's lively biography, translated by Teresa Waugh, introduces readers to Astolphe de Custine, a passionate literary figure, a poet, playwright, essayist, traveler, aristocrat, and homosexual adventurer.

Author Notes

Anka Muhlstein's lively biography, translated by Teresa Waugh, introduces American readers to Astolphe de Custine, a passionalte literary figure, a poet, playwright, essayist, traveler, aristocrat and homosexual adventurer.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

As Dickens said, they were the best of times, they were the worst of times. Either way, revolutionary-era France certainly makes good reading, and this translation of a winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt for biography is absorbing, to say the least. The author's subject, Marquis Astolphe de Custine, was a French aristocrat born in 1790 and who thus spent his childhood in the midst of the bloody terror that spattered French aristocratic society in the last decade of the eighteenth century. The marquis gained fame as a travel writer, author of, among other books, the classic Russia in 1839, in which he criticized the despotism of the czarist regime. The marquis is also famous for having lived openly as a homosexual--even cohabiting for many years with a male lover--at a time when such openness was simply not done. He was a multifaceted individual, and Muhlstein catches the light shining from each facet in this sensitive portrait and vivid evocation of his times. --Brad Hooper

Library Journal Review

A contemporary of Napoleon, Balzac, and Chateaubriand, Astolphe de Custine (1790-1857) achieved fame with his book La Russie en 1839. An unconventional aristocrat who managed to survive the French Revolution, Custine lived openly for most of his life with his partner, Edouard Sainte-Barbe, and wrote a series of unextraordinary books. But after a trip to Russia, he wrote unflinchingly of the fear, violence, and despotism there and thereby achieved fame. Today, many critics consider La Russie en 1839 one of the best books ever written about Russia, offering insights that are both emotional, rational, and prophetic of the Stalin regime. Muhlstein, who won the French Prix Goncourt for this biography in 1996, quotes liberally from Custine's letters and writings, revealing much about the man who became a prominent opponent to abuses of political, social, and moral authority. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.√ĄRobert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.