Vladimir Volkoff Biography

By John Marson Dunaway

Portrait by Sergei Chepik 2002In September of 2005, Russo-French novelist Vladimir Volkoff died in his sleep in Bourdeilles in southwestern France. Born in 1932 in Paris to White Russians who had fled Communism, Volkoff was passionately devoted to a heroic ideal that demanded selfless service and aristocratic honor. His reputation as a writer rested primarily upon the espionage fiction that propelled him into the French media in the early 1980s (The Turnaround, 1979, The Set-Up, 1982, and his magisterial tetralogy, The Moods of the Sea, 1980[1]). But he was also a man of widely diverse talents and interests: an intelligence officer in the French army during the Algerian War, a college professor, an actor/director, an avid hunter, fencer, chess player, and weapon collector. A remarkably prolific writer, he published not only fiction but also essays, plays, biblical commentaries, biographies (including that of his great grand uncle Tchaikovsky), translations, science fiction, children's mysteries, and one could go on and on.Thoroughly trilingual, he spoke Russian, French, and English with hardly a trace of an accent. Surprisingly enough, this man who was so passionately devoted to the Russian and French cultures lived for two decades in Georgia, first in Decatur, where he taught languages at Agnes Scott College, and then in Macon after he retired from teaching to devote full time to his writing career. I was fortunate enough to be the teaching colleague of his wife Denise Carla Volkoff for twenty years, and she has been admirably generous with her help in the translation of two of Vladimir's last novels that will be published by Mercer University Press: The Pope's Guest/L'Hôte du Pape (2004), which was published in late 2013, and The Torturer/Le Tortionnaire (2006), which is to appear in 2014.



[1]
Which has never been translated into English.