la mémoire incendiée
Moura, burnt memories
alexandra lapierre Moura
alexandra lapierre Moura
alexandra lapierre Moura
alexandra lapierre Moura
alexandra lapierre Moura
alexandra lapierre Moura


Pitch: The true story of a woman born in the Tsarist aristocracy who survives the Russian Revolution and manages to blend into the Bolshevik intelligentsia. A shrewd, adaptable, and mysterious survivor who cultivates the art of living a thousand different lives— without ever breaking with her past or denying herself. A free adventuress who inspired innumerable fantasies about her place in history: was Moura really a spy?

Hook: During the upheaval of the Bolshevik revolution, MOURA — a young Russian aristocrat — fights for her life. While her family and friends are being persecuted by Lenin’s police, she becomes the mistress of a British secret agent. Their affair develops into a mad passion, but her British lover is eventually deported. Alone in the freezing city of Petrograd, Moura has to find new paths for her survival…

Synopsis At the turn of the 20th century, MOURA is a young Russian aristocrat who enjoys life without a care in the world. She spends magnificent summers on her huge family estate in Ukraine with her mother, sisters and suitors. Romance and scandal, the atmosphere is that of War and Peace… At seventeen, MOURA marries the count DJON BENCKENDORFF, a charming but conventional diplomat who takes her to his Russian embassy in Berlin. On the eve of World War I, MOURA meets the whole of the international diplomatic corps and socializes with ambassadors of every nation. She has a knack for politics and enjoys liberal ideas.

The war with Germany sends her and her two young children back to Russia. While her husband DJON fights under horrible conditions on the Russian front, MOURA supports the war effort by working for the British forces stationed at the British Embassy in St Petersburg. Her knowledge of foreign languages and her important connections with Russian high society allow her to play a key role among the Allies. She flirts with some of the officers but remains faithful to DJON… Until she meets the young and dashing adventurer ROBERT BRUCE LOCKHART, British consul in Moscow — his cover up for being the head of the Allies intelligence services in Russia… A spy.

Though both married, MOURA and LOCKHART fall madly in love. They defy convention by living together and MOURA becomes pregnant. Their affair develops into a lifelong passion. Meanwhile LENIN and the Bolshevik Revolution have taken MOURA’s world by surprise and the Tcheka — Lenin’s secret police — is working at wiping it all away.

MOURA manages to get her two children fathered by DJON out of the country. But DJON is murdered by the Bolsheviks. And LOCKHART is arrested. MOURA is thrown with him in the “Lubianka”, the prison where people are tortured to death. While interrogated by Lenin’s henchmen, MOURA loses LOCKHART’s baby. Chance has it that the British government succeeds in negotiating an exchange of prisoners: LOCKHART is sent back — alive — to London. As for MOURA, she stays in Petrograd, half dead. They are able to see each other, but part in tears, promising to meet again very soon. The minute he is free, LOCKHART will send for her.

Without him or anyone, MOURA fights for her life, starving and freezing in Petrograd. She puts her survival skills to work and finds a job as a translator in the new publishing house that the great communist writer — Maxim GORKY — is creating. GORKY and his bohemian group are friends with Lenin and ardent Bolsheviks, but they become fascinated with MOURA, their beautiful, brilliant and mysterious countess, the ultimate survivor of the class they are seeking to destroy.

MOURA becomes GORKY’S mistress. He is twenty-five years older and she loves him dearly for getting her out of the ghastly Tcheka prisons many, many times. But she still pines for the love of her life, LOCKHART, who seems to have completely forgotten her. He is said to have resumed his married life upon returning in London, as well as his brilliant carrier.

H. G. WELLS, the British author of The Invisible Man, comes to visit his friend GORKY in Petrograd, and falls head over heels in love with MOURA. Being GORKY’S muse and companion, MOURA soon reigns over the whole of European socialist intelligentsia.

She finally succeeds in escaping Russia and looks for her children. Against all odds, she manages to reunite with them in free Estonia. But due to her connection with GORKY, she is suspected of being a Bolshevik spy. Her late husband’s family has her arrested by the Estonian police and thrown in jail as a traitor to her class.

Having managed to escape deportation by marrying a powerful Estonian baron, MOURA moves to Berlin where she re-establishes her relationship with her old admirer, the writer H. G. WELLS, now head of the international PEN Club. He is in Berlin to give a conference with Albert EINSTEIN on world peace. WELLS again falls under MOURA’S spell and asks her to marry him. Being Mrs H. G. Wells would solve all her problems, give her a passport, social status, and money, but she refuses. She is still in love with her old passion, the adventurer and diplomat Robert Bruce LOCKHART, the man who abandoned her in Russia.

MOURA tracks him down in Vienna, and the meeting between the two is still like wild fire. They resume their great love affair, but they know that the past is the past. It cannot be re-lived. They will remain lovers until death tears them apart. No less. No more.

So MOURA becomes H. G. WELLS’ last companion, his official mate, and… the queen of London society. Thanks to her wit and charm, she reigns over every political circle in Great Britain and socializes with the twentieth century’s greatest artists, working with Charlie Chaplin, Vivien Leigh, and Lawrence Olivier. But also with Churchill and de Gaulle. All agree that she is the very embodiment of intelligence, of charm, of survival. She incarnates Life. Life against all odds. Life at all costs.

Adored by those she loved, MOURA did indeed exist. At age 80, she chose to burn all her letters and memories. What ominous secrets did she have to hide?

Why this book?
This fully researched and perfectly constructed epic brings to life one of the most touching heroines of our time. Through the portrait of this very modern woman — a free spirit and a formidable lover — the book weaves together the destinies of many captivating figures whose fates shed light on history. Moura’s inner conflicts reflect every contradiction and all the tragedies of the 20th century.

Why a movie?
A woman’s success story. An epic about survival. A modern Doctor Zhivago — with a complex feminine character struggling against the worst of political adversity. For an actress, the role of a lifetime.
A historical series could also be developed. The various intrigues are rich enough to give impetus to an international coproduction between USA, UK, France, Italy (& Russia?).


If you were looking for a great book last winter, you have found it this spring with Moura: an amazing story with a stunning character!"
Franck Ferrand, Au cœur de l’Histoire, 17 March 2016.

"When Alexandra Lapierre gets her grip on a forgotten woman, you can be sure that she will turn her heroine into a fascinating lady. Moura, her latest book, is both powerful and inspired, fast and passionate. Lapierre at her best. Moura, her last book, is both powerful and inspired, fast and passionate. Lapierre at her best."
Christine Oddo, ELLE, 18 March 2016.

"A scholarly biography and a novel at once: a fabulous book, packed with discoveries, unknown facts and unpublished documents. Seven hundred passionate pages."
Dominique Bona de l’Académie française, Version Femina, 4 April 2016.

"This dashing and fascinating novel reads precisely the way Moura lived: at a gallop!"
Thierry Gandillot, <>Les Echos, 5 April 2016.

"An unforgetable portrait of a lady."
Philippe Vallet, Le livre du Jour, France Info, 6 April 2016

"With an enthusiasm that becomes a contagious passion, Alexandra Lapierre plunges into the heart and soul of a woman who embodied the whole of the 20th century, with its cultural wealth and its complexity. The result is a three-dimensional portrait of a great lady. A dense and captivating narrative."
Mohammed Aissaoui, Le Figaro Littéraire, 14 April 2016.

"In order to recreate Moura’s captivating story, Alexandra Lapierre has undertaken colossal research and written a prodigious book. No doubt:Moura will be THE book of the summer 2016."
Pierre Vavasseur, Le Parisien, 17 April 2016.

"With her indubitable talent, Alexandra Lapierre narrates the destiny of one of the most fanciful and outlandish characters of the 20th century."
Marianne Payot, l’Express, 4 May 2016.

"Through the story of a life like no other, Alexandra Lapierre unveils fascinating aspects of 1920s Russia, where rivalries between Bolshevik leaders and Western diplomats intertwine. The novelist brings a literary dimension to these historical protagonists, never compromising the era’s authenticity. Using rigorous research, Lapierre succeeds in maintaining the delicate balance between truth and emotion. Her contradictory heroine mixes adventure, politics and love. And that is precisely what makes Moura so human. For this splendid seductress is the very incarnation of the Russian soul in all its ferocity, elusiveness and extravaganza.”
Theresa Revay, Le Magazine Littéraire, May-June 2016.

“You will fall under the spell of this amazing Russian story.”
Claire Julliard, L’Obs, 19-25 May 2016.

"You devour this novel the same way Moura devoured life: voraciously. Fierce, dense, complex, boisterous, romantic, in fury and in blood, she loves breathlessly. And my God, does it feel good to meet women like her!”
Françoise Cazalis, Valeurs Actuelles, 2 June 2016.

“Of course she did exist! We all know Alexandra Lapierre’s scholarly precision. Her mind-blowing novel brings the archives to life. Here is Moura, whom her admirers considered the most intelligent woman of her generation. A true heroine."
Stéphanie des Horts, Côté Ouest, June-July 2016.

Paris diary by Laure de Gramont

As some of you already know, I have decided to resume what I was writing for Vogue and Point de Vue some years ago, but this time as a blog. I would like it to be like a morning phone call to my best friend, a very personal and subjective view of Paris life for all of you who are curious of what's going on in France. I now have readers on five continents, from the Philippines to Tasmania, Perth and Sydney. From Mexico to California, New York, Washington and Canada. Morocco, Egypt and most European countries. Thank you !

“Moura”, a true adventuress
For her eleventh book, French novelist Alexandra Lapierre has picked the most extravagant and moving Russian heroin and has traveled around Europe, Estonia and Russia for three years, digging into archives, secret service files from England, France, Germany and Russia, and aristocrat’s clubs. The life of Moura Benckendorff, who lived through the Russian Revolution, loved Gorki, H.G. Wells and a charming British diplomat, Robert Bruce Lockhart, is one of her most achieved novels.

She is wilder than Fanny Stevenson or Artemisia Gentileschi, she is more adventurous than William Petty or conquistadora Dona Isabel Barreto, she is in love with three men at the same time and devoted to each one of them! She is probably the most modern and mysterious of Lapierre‘s heroins and was the subject of a film, « British Agent » by Michael Curtiz. Her life story cannot be put down.

This is again a long novel, which builds up with Moura’s adventures with many different men. Is she a spy for the Brits, the Germans or the Russians or all three of them ? Alexandra Lapierre does not think so, but she definitely is a diplomat and a go-between, who interests all secret services. At the book launch, the author told us "what I would discover about Moura, would be way beyond my wildest dreams".

She manages to live through International events with no money but great elegance, and to fascinate all intellectuals of her time. She is an aristocrat who loves men and life. The book is a fantastic read and the day after I finished it, I suddenly felt I had lost my new best friend. A whole world of dreaming, loving and conspiring set in Naples, London, St Petersburg and Paris had suddenly vanished.

This is Alexandra Lapierre’s most adventurous novel to date for she has put a true character in the limelight. And when you learn that Moura was British Lib Dem Nick Clegg‘s great aunt, you will want to read it even more! (“Moura, la Mémoire incendiée”, Flammarion)

On the Author

French by birth, yet educated in the United States, Alexandra Lapierre is a graduate of the Sorbonne, of the American Film Institute and of the University of Southern California. Novelist and biographer, she is the author of many bestsellers that have been translated worldwide. She was awarded the prestigious "Grand Prix des Lectrices de ELLE" for her biography on the American pioneer Fanny Stevenson, wife of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson, which sold more than 250,000 hardcover copies in France alone. It was published by Carroll & Graf in the United States and by Fourth Estate in Great Britain.

Her second book on the first Italian woman painter from the Renaissance, Artemisia Gentileschi, was voted "Book of the Week" by the British BBC and "Best Book on the Seventeenth Century" by the Sorbonne University. It was published by Grove Atlantic in the US and by Chatto and Windus in England.

Her most recent book, Moura, Burnt Memories (Moura, la mémoire incendiée, published by Flammarion in March, 2016), is the true story of a Russian aristocrat during the upheaval of the Bolshevik Revolution, a woman who survives everything, everywhere, against all odds: a great seductress with a thousand lives and a thousand faces.

In tracing Moura’s footsteps, Alexandra Lapierre conducted researches in libraries and archives all around the world for three years. Her eye, both lucid and kind, brings life to many captivating figures of our recent history. In 2016, Moura won the prestigious award of “The Best Heroine of the Year”, from Madame Figaro Magazine.

Alexandra Lapierre has been elected "Donna per la Cultura", by the City of Rome, Italy, and nominated Chevalier in the "Order of Arts and Letters" by the French government. She was also elected a member of the Association of the American University Women. She is based in Paris, but lives around the world, settling wherever her books take her.