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Miraculous Coincidences
by Zilma Mayants/Edited by Felice Bochman




6" x 9"
May 2007

Softcover / Hardcover
978-0-9777003-7-0 /
/ $27.95



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About the Author

Zilma Mayants, a retired professor of Comparative Literature, Aesthetics, and History of Fine Arts, was born in Smolensk, Russia in 1923—a passionate lover of literature and music. She experienced the horrors of the Nazi invasion of her native country, published several books about Chekhov, Hemingway, and several articles, in Russian. She and her husband, Professor Lazar Mayants, immigrated to America and arrived in Amherst, MA in 1980. She taught at Amherst and Smith Colleges and continues to live in Amherst, MA.

This is her first book written in English.

Editor's Note

How can one presume to edit the thoughts and memories of another individual? From an editorial point of view, it is most certainly not simply a matter of grammar, syntax and correct use of literary conventions. The story of a personal history can be told effectively without adherence to any editorial standard. The process of editing a memoir, the unfolding of a history in keeping with a personality, an individual, whose utterances are subject to the structure of written language but yet has a voice which transcends it, calls into question the relationship between the author and editor, the practice of relating memory and history, notions of the past, present and future and the way in which they are represented in writing.

Miraculous Coincidences by Zilma Mayant’s has proved to be a most ambitious project, larger I think than anyone involved could have imagined. Many of my preconceptions about memoir writing have fallen away. I have been guided by Zilma’s voice, by sitting next to her and hearing her stories and experiencing the march of time, cliché though it may sound, as it has ravaged as well as guided the unfolding of her history. Of primary importance are the stories themselves—the recounting of episodes in the style of Zilma Mayants. Not until well into the editing process did I begin to form some idea of the truly complex nature of memory as it comes into contact and is even restructured by the writing process. Past, present, future, which are so secure in our daily lives, blur and interact and inform each other seemingly outside the traditional flow of time. It is a special feature of memoir writing. It provides narrative flexibility and possibility as well as an unbounded set of unanticipated literary variables—to the great apprehension and anxiety of this editor in particular. But, it is also among the richest and greatly textured approaches to writing. It should be valued not so much for its ability to hold history in place or to put history in its place, but rather for its sheer narrative significance and the hold it has over our imagination. Be that as it may, a good story will always outshine a merely factual account of incident and accident. It is a feature of reverie and one that informs the value of narrative itself.

My purpose here has been to allow Zilma’s voice, the voice first and foremost of a woman, an educator and researcher, a mother, a friend, and a wife, to come forth, with all its clarity, force and personality—even at the risk of playing fast and loose with language at times. That is my fault alone, of course. As an editor I found myself incomparably tiny in the face of massive historical information, riveting stories and profound personal revelations interpreted by Zilma. That she has placed such faith in me is humbling. Knowing her has enriched my life beyond measure. My thanks to her, Natasha Kandror and Michael Minayev can hardly be expressed without the use of the highest praise for their patience and assistance, good cheer and sense of humor.

Felice Bochman,

About the Book

“To read Zilma Mayant’s memoir is to allow a red-headed dybuk into your life. Her being, possessed by fate and the fortunes of growing up Jewish in Soviet Russia and immigrating to the US, is revealed by a voice that echoes I.B Singer’s and Anne Frank’s. Here is a life’s story worth recalling and reading.”

Bruce Gellerman,
National Public Radio

“This simple, deeply affecting memoir of an indigent and war-torn Russian girlhood should be required reading for anyone who believes that dreams are heartier than the harshest realities.”

Steve Penhollow
Arts and Entertainment
The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN

“Mayants’ voice is that of a true storyteller, tender, inclusive and richly poised beside the heady backdrop of WWII Russia. Her narrative, thick with vivid, supple description invites readers to stop by the windowpanes so they might take in the view.”

Rebecca Frankel,
Managing Editor, Moment Magazine

Excerpts From the Book

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