Writer Henri Troyat Dies at 95

PARIS (AP)–Writer Henri Troyat (born Levon Aslan Torossian), who fled Russia’s revolution as a child and went on to become one of France’s most prolific, popular and respected authors, has died, the Academie Francaise said Monday. He was 95. Troyat wrote more than 100 works, including novels, biographies and plays. Many of his biographies focused on major Russian figures, including Tolstoy, Catherine the Great and Pushkin. Troyat’s fictional tales often were involved, epic sagas that drew comparisons to the novels of the 19th century. His lost Russia was a continuing source of fascination and inspiration throughout his career. "Thanks to him, the Russian novel has become a bit French," French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said in an homage. President Jacques Chirac called Troyat a "giant of French letters." Troyat died Friday in Paris, the Academie Francaise said. He had been inducted into the prestigious academy in 1959, making him the most long-standing member of the group of 40 so-called "immortals" who safeguard the French language. Maurice Druon, another academy member, recalled that Troyat often wrote standing up at a pedestal, wearing a hole in the carpet beneath his feet. "He was a born teller of stories, both true and invented," Druon wrote in Le Figaro newspaper. "That was what he lived and breathed for. A day without writing seemed like a sin to him." Troyat was born in Moscow in 1911. His family lost everything they had when they fled Russia during the Revolution. They wandered for years, with stops including Istanbul and Venice, before settling in Paris in 1920. Troyat never returned to his native land, even after the fall of the Soviet Union, saying he wanted to keep alive the imaginary Russia he created out of childhood memories and dreams. "The snow is cleaner in my dreams," he once said. Polls often ranked Troyat as the favorite writer of the French. He also won France’s highest Legion of Honor ranking, the Grand-Croix or Grand Cross. But Troyat said he cared little for glory.

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