On 29 July 1902, Liza Dyakonova disappeared while walking in the Tyrol mountains above Lake Achensee. She was just two weeks short of her 28th birthday. Her body was found a month later, completely naked, face down in the splash pool of a waterfall, her clothes tied in a neat bundle nearby.
Liza left behind three volumes of a diary, begun when she was twelve and continued right up to her death. The diary tells the story of an intelligent and ambitious young woman who battled depression, self-loathing, illness, and fractured family relationships to haul herself out of her small-town beginnings and win places to study at the prestigious Higher Women’s Courses in St Petersburg and the Sorbonne in Paris. Caught up in Imperial Russia’s pre-revolutionary and early feminist convulsions, Liza harboured dreams of becoming Russia’s first ever female lawyer—only to die mysteriously while visiting relatives in Austria.
Pavel Basinsky stumbled on Liza’s diary in a Moscow bookshop, and spent the next twelve years reading and re-reading it, captivated by the drama of Liza’s inner and outer lives, and puzzling over the mystery of her death. In Liza’s Waterfall, Basinsky draws on the diary, the family archive, and his own extensive knowledge of the social and political environment of the time, to give us a book which is part psychological study, part documentary, and part thriller. A book in which the author finally understands why he had spent so much time and energy reading Liza’s diary: “The key to the last and most mysterious act of her life is hidden in it.”
Published with the support of the Institute for Literary Translation, Russia.
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