KIRILL FINKELSHTEYN

IN A WRONG BODY. THE SECRET OF THE LIFE OF NICOLAI DE RAYLAN

Moscow.: IDRIS publisher. 2021; 416 p. 16+

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   The book is written on a documentary basis. It tells about the adventurous fate of an unusual person, transgender Nikolai de Rylan, who lived at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in Russia and the US. His fate is in many ways similar to the fate of the cavalry girl Nadezhda Durova, who became the prototype of the famous Russian movie "The Hussar Ballad".

    The girl Anna was born in Odessa (1872), into an impoverished noble family. Beginning from childhood, she felt like a boy, imprisoned by an evil mistake of nature in a girl's body. At the age of 19, after staging a suicide, Anna fled from parental care to Moscow, and then to America, where she transformed into the man Nikolai de Rylan. Such famous persons as the Procurator of the Holy Synod K.P. Pobedonostsev and outstanding lawyer F.N. Plevako were involved in her escape.

    In July 1892, Nicolai de Rylan steps on American soil, completely breaking with his past. Because of his talents and the opportunity to live in harmony with his feelings, Rylan achieved in US considerable success. He became the closest assistant to the Russian commissioner at the World’s Columbian Exposition, the secretary of the Russian consulate in Chicago; organized his own legal office (profitable, but in many respects fraudulent), translated into English Leo Tolstoy, was married twice, joined the detachment of the Chicago hussars, was known as a desperate reveler and conqueror of women's hearts. He left diary entries, similar to an exciting adventure novel, died in 1906 from consumption. The book tells not only about the amazing fate of de Rylan, but also about the historical events in which he took part: the world Columbian exposition in Chicago, the visits of the Grand dukes and Russian revolutionaries to the United States; and details of everyday life of that time.

BOOK REVIEWS

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He was an international adventurer with a biography that would appear to be the wildest fantasy if it were the product of a fiction. However, the author claims to have spent nearly a decade in search of evidence and documents of a person who left Russia to America, changed his name and gender, has made a career in the Russian Consulate in Chicago, and was married twice.

The book remains the recently published in Russian famous novel by Patricia Duncker "James Miranda Barry" - also an adventure with dressing up, a heroine who made a career where women had no place, and paid for success with loneliness and eternal fear of exposure. The same persistent emotion possesses the hero of Kirill Finkelstein's research, and the more you read the book, the more you sympathize with Nicolai.

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Olga Khoroshilova - costume and fashion historian, writer.

​He could become a Russian LGBT culture icon. A full-length film and even a TV series could be made about him. His life is a true adventure novel. But Nicolai de Raylan, aka Anna Terletsky was still almost unknown in Russia. A man of mystery, a man with many faces, half a man and half a woman, at the beginning of the 20th century, he attracted the attention of major European sexologists. Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld and Havelock Ellis, as well as Russian psychiatrist Vladimir Bekhterev, were  interested in him.

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Vassili Molodiakov - historian, political scientist (LL.D), writer.

«"Mystery" ... "In a wrong body" ... "Is it really about the alien’s reptilians again?" - may think a reader who has not heard of Nicolai de Rylan at all. No, the book is not about the reptilians. But the fact that "the dead man turned out to be a woman" made a much stronger impression on American reporters and their readers in 1906 than the news of the reptilian today.

The book is an excellent historical study, more precisely, an investigation about the life and adventures of one of the most mysterious characters of Russian-American relations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

At the same time this is a literary work, since Kirill Finkelstein, is not only a historian (Part One), but also a writer (Part Two). He is excellent at making a story based on facts. And he remembers to mention where the reality is, and where the fiction. As a biographer and biographies fun, I haven't read anything so fascinating in a long time.

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Marina Balueva - an English and journalism teacher, writer.

The book of my friend, writer Kirill Finkelstein with great difficulties has finally appeared and reaches the reader. The difficulties arose mainly from the author's perfectionism, his love of accuracy and fact-checking. Kirill writes cultural-historical researches and non-fiction. But it is one thing to write about celebrities, and quite another to pave the way, revealing the details of an almost unknown life to anyone, plunging into the criminal, high society and mainstream life of the 19th and 20th centuries. Adventurous documentary - so, perhaps, you can define the type of his work.

In the modern language, the main character has problems with gender identity.

Today you will not surprise anyone with this. But in the nineteenth century they did not even know such words, although people like that have always been. The hero of the book is smart and energetic, inventive and courageous. He manages to realize himself in accordance with his own feeling and overcome a lot. The book also contains many interesting details of the everyday life of that time.

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Eugene Nikiforov - writer, literary critic.

I have visited "a wrong body", that is, I visited someone else's book. Thank you! It was very interesting. I tried to remember what other book I had read from cover to cover lately, and did not remember. The book gave me real academic pleasure. Only a person who is involved in research work can appreciate the work invested in every footnote, every date, every initial, every caption under a photograph (which also had to be found!). And all this data is arranged in a not boring form. The book is an excellent evidence of how two authors, an academic researcher and a talented fiction writer, can get along under one cover without fighting each other.

And the reader who, perhaps, is a little tired of looking at the footnotes in the first part of the book, receives a reward bonus in the form of a "diary", which, it turns out, is in the most important chronotopic markers, and is just as scrupulously and conscientiously accurate.

Konstantin Kropotkin - journalist, blogger, author of the telegram-channel, dedicated to queer books and films.

<...> Kirill Finkelstein included in the book the biographies of people who are indirectly related to the main character (and for the screenwriter this would be extremely useful). Now, when they write script applications, they certainly indicate references. Political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann, who praised this work, mentioned the novel "James Miranda Barry". When I read "In  a wrong body", I remembered the excellent British mini-series "Gentleman Jack". Kirill Finkelstein would like to see his hero on the screen. I think it would be a hit.

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Denis Zakharov - journalist, writer, researcher of Truman Capote's work.

I want to thank you for the wonderful book "In a wrong body. The secret of the life of Nicolai de Rylan". I accidentally came across someone's review on the Internet, and immediately ordered a book. I read the first part in half a day, now I have switched to de Rylan's diary. Delight! Great research, fine literary language, the  scientific references, and illustrations. Everything is done with great love and knowledge! I sincerely congratulate you on this wonderful work. It is a pity that only 300 copies were printed, and it was published in paperback.

This story deserves a dust jacket and an international recognition! And what kind of great movie could be made ?! It is gratifying that researchers like you tirelessly seek and find incredible stories and share them with others. Bravo, bravo! Continue to delight readers with new stories.

Video of a creative meeting with the author of the book "In a wrong body. The secret of the life of Nicolai de Raylan:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GinDmn78FpM&t=2009s