Marina Tsvetaeva

Marina Tsvetaeva

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Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva was a Russian and Soviet poet. Her work is considered among some of the greatest in twentieth century Russian literature. She lived through and wrote of the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 and the Moscow famine that followed it. In an attempt to save her daughter Irina from starvation, she placed her in a state orphanage in 1919, where she died of hunger. As an anti-Bolshevik supporter of Imperialism, Tsvetaeva was exiled in 1922, living with her family in increasing poverty in Paris, Berlin and Prague before returning to Moscow in 1939. Shunned and suspect, Tsvetaeva's isolation was compounded. Both her husband Sergey Efron and her daughter Ariadna Efron (Alya) were arrested for espionage in 1941; Alya served over eight years in prison and her husband was executed. Without means of support and in deep isolation, Tsvetaeva committed suicide in 1941. As a lyrical poet, her passion and daring linguistic experimentation mark her striking chronicler of her times and the depths of the human condition.

Early years


Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, her surname evokes association with flowers. Her father was Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev, a professor of Fine Art at the University of Moscow, who later founded the Alexander III Museum, which is now known as the Pushkin Museum
Pushkin Museum
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is the largest museum of European art in Moscow, located in Volkhonka street, just opposite the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour....

 of Fine Arts. Tsvetaeva's mother, Maria Alexandrovna Meyn, was Ivan's second wife, was a concert pianist, highly literate, with German and Polish ancestry. Growing up in considerable material comfort, Tsvetaeva would later come to identify herself with the Polish aristocracy. Tsvetaeva's two half-siblings, Valeria and Andrei, were the children of Ivan's deceased first wife, Varvara Dmitrievna Ilovaiskaya, daughter of the historian Dmitry Ilovaisky
Dmitry Ilovaisky
Dmitry Ivanovich Ilovaysky was an anti-Normanist Russian historian who penned a number of standard history textbooks.Ilovaysky graduated from the Moscow University in 1854 and first attracted critical attention with his thesis on the Principality of Ryazan in 1858...

. Tsvetaeva's only full sister, Anastasia, was born in 1894. Quarrels among the children were frequent and occasionally violent. There was considerable tension between Tsvetaeva's mother and Varvara's children, and Tsvetaeva's father maintained close contact with Varvara's family. Tsvetaeva's father was kind, but deeply wrapped up in his studies and distant from his family. He was also still deeply in love with his first wife; he would never get over her. Maria Tsvetaeva, had had a love affair before her marriage, from which she never recovered. Maria Tsvetaeva disapproved of Marina's poetic inclination, wishing her daughter to become a pianist, holding the opinion that her poetry was poor.

In 1902, Tsvetaeva's mother contracted tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

. A change in climate was believed to help cure the disease, and so the family travelled abroad until shortly before her death in 1906, when Tsvetaev was 14 They lived for a while by the sea at Nervi, near Genoa
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

. There, away from the rigid constraints of a bourgeois Muscovite life, Tsvetaeva was able for the first time to run free, climb cliffs, and vent her imagination in childhood games. There were many Russian émigré revolutionaries residing at that time in Nervi, who may have had some influence on the young Tsvetaeva. In June 1904, when Tsvetaeva was sent to school in Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

. Changes in the Tsvetaev residence led to several changes in school, and during the course of her travels she acquired the Italian, French, and German languages. She gave up the strict musical studies that her mother had imposed and turned to poetry. She wrote "With a mother like her, I had only one choice: to become a poet".

In 1908, aged 16, Tsvetaeva studied literary history at the Sorbonne
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

. During this time, a major revolutionary change was occurring within Russian poetry: the flowering of the Russian Symbolist movement, and this movement was to colour most of her later work. It was not the theory which was to attract her, but the poetry and the gravity which writers such as Andrey Bely and Aleksandr Blok were capable of generating. Her own first collection of poems, Vecherny Albom (Evening Album), was self-published in 1910, promoting a considerable reputation as a poet. It was well received, although her early poetry, was held to be insipid compared to her later work. It attracted the attention of the poet and critic Maximilian Voloshin
Maximilian Voloshin
Maximilian Alexandrovich Kirienko-Voloshin was a Russian poet and famous Freemason. He was one of the significant representatives of the Symbolist movement in Russian culture and literature...

, whom Tsvetaeva described after his death in A Living Word About a Living Man. Voloshin came to see Tsvetaeva and soon became her friend and mentor.

Family and career


She began spending time at Voloshin's home in the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 resort of Koktebel
Koktebel
Koktebel , formerly known as Planerskoye, is one of the most popular resort townlets in South-Eastern Crimea. Koktebel is situated on the shore of the Black Sea about halfway between Feodosiya and Sudak and is subordinated to the Theodosia city municipality. It is best known for its literary...

 ("Blue Height"), which was a well-known haven for writers, poets and artists. She became enamoured of the work of Aleksandr Blok and Anna Akhmatova
Anna Akhmatova
Anna Andreyevna Gorenko , better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova , was a Russian and Soviet modernist poet, one of the most acclaimed writers in the Russian canon.Harrington p11...

, although she never met Blok and did not meet Akhmatova until the 1940s. Describing the Koktebel community, the émigré Viktoria Schweitzer wrote: "Here inspiration was born." At Koktebel, Tsvetaeva met Sergei (Seryozha) Yakovlevich Efron, a 17 year old cadet in the Officers' Academy. She was 19, he 18: they fell in love and were married in 1912, the same year as her father's project, the Pushkin Museum
Pushkin Museum
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is the largest museum of European art in Moscow, located in Volkhonka street, just opposite the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour....

 of Fine Arts, was ceremonially opened, an event attended by Tsar Nicholas II
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland. His official short title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until...

. Tsvetaeva's love for Efron was intense; however, this did not preclude her from having affairs, including one with Osip Mandelstam
Osip Mandelstam
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist school of poets...

, which she celebrated in a collection of poems called Mileposts. At around the same time, she became involved in an affair with the poet Sofia Parnok, who was 7 years older than Tsvetaeva, an affair that caused her husband great grief. The two women fell deeply in love, and the relationship profoundly affected both women's writings. She deals with the ambiguous and tempestuous nature of this relationship in a cycle of poems which at times she called The Girlfriend, and at other times The Mistake. Tsvetaeva and her husband spent summers in the Crimea until the revolution, and had two daughters: Ariadna, or Alya (born 1912) and Irina (born 1917).

In 1914, Efron volunteered for the front and by 1917 he was an officer stationed in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 with the 56th Reserve. Tsvetaeva was a close witness the Russian Revolution
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 which she rejected. On trains, she came into contact with ordinary Russian people and was shocked by the mood of anger and violence. She wrote in her journal: "In the air of the compartment hung only three axe-like words: bourgeois, Junkers, leeches." After the 1917 Revolution, Efron joined the White Army, and Marina returned to Moscow hoping to be reunited with her husband. She was trapped in Moscow for five years, where there was a terrible famine.

She wrote six plays in verse and narrative poems. Between 1917 and 1922 she wrote the epic verse cycle Lebeding stan ('‘The Encampment of the Swans’') about the civil war, glorifying those who fought against the communists. The cycle of poems in the style of a diary or journal begins on the day of Tsar Nicholas II's abdication in March 1917, and ends late in 1920, when the anti-communist White Army was finally defeated. The 'swans' of the title refers to the volunteers in the White Army, in which her husband was fighting as an officer. In 1922 she published a long pro-imperial verse fairy tale, Tsar-devitsa (‘'Tsar-Maiden’').

The Moscow famine was to exact a toll on Tsvetaeva. Starvation and worry were to erode her looks. With no immediate family to turn to, she had no way to support herself or her daughters. In 1919, she placed both her daughters in a state orphanage, mistakenly believing that she would be better fed there. Alya became ill and Tsvetaeva removed her but Irina died there of starvation in 1920. The child's death caused Tsvetaeva great grief and regret. In one letter, she said, "God punished me." During these years, Tsvetaeva maintained a close and intense friendship with the actress Sofia Evgenievna Holliday, for whom she wrote a number of plays. Many years later, she would write the novella "Povest' o Sonechke" about her relationship with Holliday, who ended up betraying her.

Berlin and Prague



In May 1922, Tsvetaeva and Ariadna left the Soviet Union and were reunited with Efron in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, whom she had thought killed by the Bolsheviks. There she published the collections Separation, Poems to Blok, and the poem The Tsar Maiden, much of her poetry appeared in Moscow and Berlin, consolidating her reputation. In August 1922, the family moved to Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

. Living in unremitting poverty, unable to afford living accommodation in Prague itself, with Efron studying politics and sociology at the Charles University and living in hostels, Tsvetaeva and Ariadna found rooms in a village outside the city. She writes "we are devoured by coal, gas, the milkman, the baker...the only meat we eat is horsemeat". When offered an opportunity to earn money by reading her poetry, she describes having to beg a simple dress from a friend to replace the one she had been living in.

Tsvetaeva began a passionate affair with Konstantin Boleslavovich Rodzevitch, a former military officer, a liaison which affair became widely known throughout émigré circles. Efron was devastated. Her break-up with Rodzevitch in 1923 was almost certainly the inspiration for her The Poem of the End
The Poem of the End
Poem of the End is the best known poem by Russian poet Vasilisk Gnedov. One of the most radically experimental poets of Russian Futurism, Gnedov's Poem of the End consisted of its title alone on a blank page. Gnedov would perform the poem on stage using a silent gesture...

and "The Poem of the Mountain". At about the same time, Tsvetaeva began correspondence with poet Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke
René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke , better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian–Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language...

 and novelist Boris Pasternak
Boris Pasternak
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was a Russian language poet, novelist, and literary translator. In his native Russia, Pasternak's anthology My Sister Life, is one of the most influential collections ever published in the Russian language...

. Tsvetaeva and Pasternak were not to meet for nearly twenty years, but for a time they were in love, and they maintained an intimate friendship until Tsvetaeva's return to USSR.

In summer 1924, Efron and Tsvetaeva left Prague for the suburbs, living for a while in Jíloviště
Jíloviště
Jíloviště is a village and municipality in Prague-West District in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. -References:*This article was initially translated from the Czech Wikipedia....

, before moving on to Všenory
Všenory
Všenory is a village and municipality in Prague-West District in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. -References:*This article was initially translated from the Czech Wikipedia....

, where Tsvetaeva completed "The Poem of the End", and was to conceive their son, Georgy, whom she was to later nickname 'Mur'. Tsvetaeva wanted to name him Boris (after Pasternak); Efron insisted on Georgy. He was to be a most difficult child but Tsetaeva loved him obsessively. With Efron now rarely free from tuberculosis, their daughter Ariadna was relegated to the role of mother's helper and confidante, and consequently felt robbed of much of her childhood. In Berlin before settling in Paris, Tsvetaeva wrote some of her greatest verse, including Romeslo ( '‘Craft'’, 1923) and Posle Rossii ( After Russia 1928). Reflecting a life of in poverty and exiled, the work holds great nostalgia for Russia and its folk history, while experimenting with verse forms.

Paris


In 1925, the family settled in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, where they would live for the next 14 years. At about this time Tsvetaeva contracted tuberculosis. Tsvetaeva received a small stipend from the Czechoslovak government, which gave financial support to artists and writers who had lived in Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

. In addition, she tried to make whatever she could from readings and sales of her work. She turned more and more to writing prose because she found it made more money than poetry. Tsvetaeva did not feel at all at home in Paris's predominantly ex-bourgeois circle of Russian émigré writers. Although she had written passionately pro-'White'
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

 poems during the Revolution, her fellow émigrés thought that she was insufficiently anti-Soviet, and that her criticism of the Soviet régime was altogether too nebulous. She was particularly criticised for writing an admiring letter to the Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky was a Russian and Soviet poet and playwright, among the foremost representatives of early-20th century Russian Futurism.- Early life :...

. In the wake of this letter, the émigré paper The Latest News, to which Tsvetaeva had been a frequent contributor, refused point-blank to publish any more of her work. She found solace in her correspondence with other writers, including Boris Pasternak
Boris Pasternak
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was a Russian language poet, novelist, and literary translator. In his native Russia, Pasternak's anthology My Sister Life, is one of the most influential collections ever published in the Russian language...

, Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke
René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke , better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian–Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language...

, the Czech poet Anna Teskova, and the critics D. S. Mirsky
D. S. Mirsky
D.S. Mirsky is the English pen-name of Dmitry Petrovich Svyatopolk-Mirsky , often known as Prince Mirsky , a Russian political and literary historian who promoted the knowledge and translations of Russian literature in Britain and of English literature in the Soviet Union.-Life:A scion of the...

 and Aleksandr Bakhrakh. Her poetry and critical prose of the time, including her autobiographical prose works of 1934–7, is of lasting literary importance. "Consumed by the daily round", resenting the domesticity that left her no time for solitude or writing, her émigré milieu regarded Tsvetaeva as a crude sort who ignored social graces. Describing her misery, she wrote to Teskova "In Paris, with rare personal exceptions, everyone hates me, they write all sorts of nasty things, leave me out in all sorts of nasty ways, and so on". To Pasternak she complained "They don't like poetry and what am I apart from that, not poetry but that from which it is made. [I am] an inhospitable hostess. An young woman in an old dress." She began to look back at even the Prague times with nostalgia and resent her exiled state more deeply.

Meanwhile, Tsvetaeva's husband was developing Soviet sympathies and was homesick for Soviet Union. He was afraid because of his past as a White soldier. Eventually, either out of idealism or to garner acceptance from the Communists, he began spying for the NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

, the forerunner of the KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

. Alya shared his views, and increasingly turned against her mother. In 1937, she returned to the Soviet Union. Later that year, Efron too had to return to USSR. The French police had implicated him in the murder of the former Soviet defector Ignaty Reyss in September 1937, on a country lane near Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

, Switzerland. After Efron's escape, the police interrogated Tsvetaeva, but she seemed confused by their questions and ended up reading them some French translations of her poetry. The police concluded that she was deranged and knew nothing of the murder. Later it was learned that Efron possibly had also taken part in the assassination of Trotsky's son in 1936. Tsvetaeva does not seem to have known that her husband was a spy, nor the extent to which he was compromised. However, she was held responsible for his actions and was ostracised in Paris because of the implication that he was involved with the NKVD. World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 had made Europe as unsafe and hostile as USSR. In 1939, lonely and alarmed by the rise of fascism, which she attacked in Stikhi k Chekhii ("Verses to the Czechia" 1938–39).

Last years: Return to the Soviet Union


In 1939, she and her son returned to Moscow, unaware of the reception she would receive. In Stalin's USSR, anyone who had lived abroad was suspect, as was anyone who had been among the intelligentsia before the Revolution. Tsvetaeva's sister had been arrested before Tsvetaeva's return; although Anastasia survived the Stalin years, the sisters never saw each other again. Tsvetaeva found that all doors had closed to her. She got bits of work translating poetry, but otherwise the established Soviet writers refused to help her, and chose to ignore her plight; Aseyev, who she had hoped would assist, shied away, fearful for his life and position.

Efron and Alya were arrested for espionage. Alya's fiancé, was actually an NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 agent who had been assigned to spy on the family. Efron was shot in 1941; Alya served over eight years in prison. Both were exonerated after Stalin's death. In 1941, Tsvetaeva and her son were evacuated to Yelabuga
Yelabuga
Yelabuga The history of the settlement dates back to the 11th century, when a Volga Bulgarian border castle was established. The castle was later abandoned, and its remains are now known as Şaytan qalası ....

, while most families of the Union of Soviet writers were evacuated to Chistopol
Chistopol
Chistopol is a town in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, located on the left bank of the Kuybyshev Reservoir, on the Kama River. Population: It is served by the Chistopol Airport.-History:It was first mentioned in chronicles at the end of the 17th century...

. Tsvetaeva had no means of support in Yelabuga, and on 24 August 1941 she left for Chistopol desperately seeking a job. On 26 August, Marina Tsvetaeva and poet Valentin Parnakh
Valentin Parnakh
Valentin Yakovlevich Parnakh was a Russian poet, translator, choreographer, and musician who is best remembered as a founding father of Soviet jazz.- Early years :...

 applied to the Soviet of Literature Fund asking for a job at the LitFund's canteen. Valentin Parnakh
Valentin Parnakh
Valentin Yakovlevich Parnakh was a Russian poet, translator, choreographer, and musician who is best remembered as a founding father of Soviet jazz.- Early years :...

 was accepted as a doorman, while Tsvetaeva's application for a permission to live in Chistopol was turned down and she had to return to Yelabuga on 28 August.

On 31 August 1941, while living in Yelabuga
Yelabuga
Yelabuga The history of the settlement dates back to the 11th century, when a Volga Bulgarian border castle was established. The castle was later abandoned, and its remains are now known as Şaytan qalası ....

 (Elabuga), Tsvetaeva hanged herself. She left a note for her son Mur: "Forgive me, but to go on would be worse. I am gravely ill, this is not me anymore. I love you passionately. Do understand that I could not live anymore. Tell Papa and Alya, if you ever see them, that I loved them to the last moment and explain to them that I found myself in a trap." Many of her friends felt the blame was theirs, Pasternak felt that he had personally failed her. Soviet poets often preferred to blame her desperation on her fellow emigres in Paris and Berlin. Writers further west tended to view Efron's and Alya's arrest as the cause, which may have left Tsvetaeva feeling burdensome to her son. Alya blamed Mur directly. There have always been rumours that Tsvetaeva's death was not suicide. On the day of her death she was home alone and it is alleged that NKVD agents came to her house and forced her to commit suicide. Kudrova in The Death of a Poet: The Last Days of Marina Tsvetaeva posits three causes for Tsvetaeva's death: that her sister Anastasiia insisted that she kill herself to save her son, that she suffered from mental illness, or that she feared recruitment by the local NKVD. Tsvetaeva was buried in Yelabuga cemetery on 2 September 1941, but the exact location of her grave remains unknown.

In the town of Yelabuga
Yelabuga
Yelabuga The history of the settlement dates back to the 11th century, when a Volga Bulgarian border castle was established. The castle was later abandoned, and its remains are now known as Şaytan qalası ....

, the Tsvetaeva house is now a museum and a monument stands to her. Much of her poetry was republished in the Soviet Union after 1961, and her passionate, articulate and precise work, with its daring linguistic experimentation, brought her increasing recognition as a major poet. A minor planet
Minor planet
An asteroid group or minor-planet group is a population of minor planets that have a share broadly similar orbits. Members are generally unrelated to each other, unlike in an asteroid family, which often results from the break-up of a single asteroid...

, 3511 Tsvetaeva
3511 Tsvetaeva
3511 Tsvetaeva is a main-belt asteroid discovered on October 14, 1982 by L. G. Karachkina at Nauchnyj.- External links :*...

, discovered in 1982 by Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 astronomer Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina
Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina
Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina is a Soviet and Ukrainian astronomer.Working at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory since 1978, she has discovered a number of asteroids, including the Amor asteroid 5324 Lyapunov and the Trojan asteroid 3063 Makhaon. She has received a Ph.D. in astronomy from I. I...

, is named after her.

Work


Tsvetayeva's poetry was admired by poets such as Valery Bryusov
Valery Bryusov
Valery Yakovlevich Bryusov was a Russian poet, prose writer, dramatist, translator, critic and historian. He was one of the principal members of the Russian Symbolist movement.-Biography:...

, Maximilian Voloshin
Maximilian Voloshin
Maximilian Alexandrovich Kirienko-Voloshin was a Russian poet and famous Freemason. He was one of the significant representatives of the Symbolist movement in Russian culture and literature...

, Osip Mandelstam
Osip Mandelstam
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist school of poets...

, Boris Pasternak
Boris Pasternak
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was a Russian language poet, novelist, and literary translator. In his native Russia, Pasternak's anthology My Sister Life, is one of the most influential collections ever published in the Russian language...

, Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke
René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke , better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian–Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language...

, and Anna Akhmatova
Anna Akhmatova
Anna Andreyevna Gorenko , better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova , was a Russian and Soviet modernist poet, one of the most acclaimed writers in the Russian canon.Harrington p11...

. Later, that recognition was also expressed by the poet Joseph Brodsky
Joseph Brodsky
Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky , was a Russian poet and essayist.In 1964, 23-year-old Brodsky was arrested and charged with the crime of "social parasitism" He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in America with the help of W. H. Auden and other supporters...

, pre-eminent among Tsvetaeva's champions. Tsvetaeva was primarily a lyrical poet, and her lyrical voice remains clearly audible in her narrative poetry. Brodsky said of her work: "Represented on a graph, Tsvetaeva's work would exhibit a curve - or rather, a straight line - rising at almost a right angle because of her constant effort to raise the pitch a note higher, an idea higher (or, more precisely, an octave and a faith higher.) She always carried everything she has to say to its conceivable and expressible end. In both her poetry and her prose, nothing remains hanging or leaves a feeling of ambivalence. Tsvetaeva is the unique case in which the paramount spiritual experience of an epoch (for us, the sense of ambivalence, of contradictoriness in the nature of human existence) served not as the object of expression but as its means, by which it was transformed into the material of art." Critic Annie Fitch describes the engaging, heart-felt nature of the work. "Tsvetaeva is such a warm poet, so unbridled in her passion, so completely vulnerable in her love poetry, whether to her female lover Sofie Parnak, to Boris Pasternak
Boris Pasternak
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was a Russian language poet, novelist, and literary translator. In his native Russia, Pasternak's anthology My Sister Life, is one of the most influential collections ever published in the Russian language...

. [...] Tsvetaeva throws her poetic brilliance on the altar of her heart’s experience with the faith of a true romantic, a priestess of lived emotion. And she stayed true to that faith to the tragic end of her life.

Tsvetayeva's lyric poems fill ten collections; the uncollected lyrics would add at least another volume. Her first two collections indicate their subject matter in their titles: Evening Album (Vechernii al'bom, 1910) and The Magic Lantern (Volshebnyi fonar', 1912). The poems are vignettes of a tranquil childhood and youth in a professorial, middle-class home in Moscow, and display considerable grasp of the formal elements of style. The full range of Tsvetaeva's talent developed quickly, and was undoubtedly influenced by the contacts she had made at Koktebel, and was made evident in two new collections: Mileposts (Versty, 1921) and Mileposts: Book One (Versty, Vypusk I, 1922).

Three elements of Tsvetaeva's mature style emerge in the Mileposts collections. First, Tsvetaeva dates her poems and publishes them chronologically. The poems in Mileposts: Book One, for example, were written in 1916 and resolve themselves as a versified journal. Secondly, there are cycles of poems which fall into a regular chronological sequence among the single poems, evidence that certain themes demanded further expression and development. One cycle announces the theme of Mileposts: Book One as a whole: the "Poems of Moscow." Two other cycles are dedicated to poets, the "Poems to Akhmatova" and the "Poems to Blok", which again reappear in a separate volume, Poems to Blok (Stikhi k Bloku, 1922). Thirdly, the Mileposts collections demonstrate the dramatic quality of Tsvetaeva's work, and her ability to assume the guise of multiple dramatis personae within them.
The collection Separation (Razluka, 1922) was to contain Tsvetaeva's first long verse narrative, "On a Red Steed" ("Na krasnom kone"). The poem is a prologue to three more verse-narratives written between 1920 and 1922. All four narrative poems draw on folkloric plots. Tsvetaeva acknowledges her sources in the titles of the very long works, The Maiden-Tsar: A Fairy-tale Poem (Tsar'-devitsa: Poema-skazka, 1922) and "The Swain", subtitled "A Fairytale" ("Molodets: skazka", 1924). The fourth folklore-style poem is "Byways" ("Pereulochki", published in 1923 in the collection Remeslo), and it is the first poem which may be deemed incomprehensible in that it is fundamentally a soundscape of language. The collection Psyche (Psikheya, 1923) contains one of Tsvetaeva's best-known cycles "Insomnia" (Bessonnitsa) and the poem The Swans' Encampment (Lebedinyi stan, Stikhi 1917-1921, published in 1957) which celebrates the White Army.

Subsequently, as an émigré, Tsvetaeva's last two collections of lyrics were published by émigré presses, Craft (Remeslo, 1923) in Berlin and After Russia (Posle Rossii, 1928) in Paris. There then followed the twenty-three lyrical "Berlin" poems, the pantheistic "Trees" ("Derev'ya"), "Wires" ("Provoda") and "Pairs" ("Dvoe"), and the tragic "Poets" ("Poety"). "After Russia" contains the poem "In Praise of the Rich", in which Tsvetaeva's oppositional tone is merged with her proclivity for ruthless satire.

In 1924, Tsvetaeva wrote "Poem of the End", which details a walk around Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 and across its bridges; the walk is about the final walk she will take with her lover Konstantin Rodzevich. In it everything is foretold: in the first few lines (translated by Elaine Feinstein) the future is already written:
A single post, a point of rusting
tin in the sky
marks the fated place we
move to, he and I


Again, further poems foretell future developments. Principal among these is the voice of the classically-oriented Tsvetaeva heard in cycles "The Sibyl," "Phaedra," and "Ariadne." Tsvetaeva's beloved, ill-starred heroines recur in two verse plays, Theseus-Ariadne (Tezei-Ariadna, 1927) and Phaedra (Fedra, 1928). These plays form the first two parts of an incomplete trilogy Aphrodite's Rage.

The satirist in Tsvetaeva plays second fiddle only to the poet-lyricist. Several satirical poems, moreover, are among Tsvetaeva's best-known works: "The Train of Life" ("Poezd zhizni") and "The Floorcleaners' Song" ("Poloterskaya"), both included in After Russia, and The Rat-catcher (Krysolov, 1925–1926), a long, folkloric narrative. The target of Tsvetaeva's satire is everything petty and petty bourgeois. Unleashed against such dull creature comforts is the vengeful, unearthly energy of workers both manual and creative. In her notebook, Tsvetaeva writes of "The Floorcleaners' Song": "Overall movement: the floorcleaners ferret out a house's hidden things, they scrub a fire into the door... What do they flush out? Coziness, warmth, tidiness, order... Smells: incense, piety. Bygones. Yesterday... The growing force of their threat is far stronger than the climax." The poem which Tsvetaeva describes as liricheskaia satira, The Rat-Catcher, is loosely based on the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The Rat-Catcher, which is also known as The Pied Piper, is considered by some to be the finest of Tsvetaeva's work. It was also partially an act of hommage to Heinrich Heine
Heinrich Heine
Christian Johann Heinrich Heine was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. He was also a journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder by composers such as Robert Schumann...

's poem Die Wanderatten. The Rat-Catcher appeared initially, in serial format, in the émigré journal Volia Rossii in 1925-1926 whilst still being written. It was not to appear in the Soviet Union until after the death of Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 in 1956. Its hero is the Pied Piper of Hamelin who saves a town from hordes of rats and then leads the town's children away too, in retribution for the citizens' ingratitude. As in the other folkloric narratives, The Ratcatcher's story line emerges indirectly through numerous speaking voices which shift from invective, to extended lyrical flights, to pathos.

Tsvetaeva's last ten years of exile, from 1928 when "After Russia" appeared until her return in 1939 to the Soviet Union, were principally a "prose decade", though this would almost certainly be by dint of economic necessity rather than one of choice.

Translators


Translators of Tsvetaeva's work into English include Elaine Feinstein
Elaine Feinstein
Elaine Feinstein is a poet, novelist, short-story writer, playwright, biographer and translator.-Biography:...

 and David McDuff
David McDuff
David McDuff is a British translator, editor and literary critic.He attended the University of Edinburgh, where he studied Russian and German...

. Nina Kossman translated many of Tsvetaeva's long (narrative) poems, as well as her lyrical poems; they are collected in two books, Poem of the End and In the Inmost Hour of the Soul. J. Marin King translated a great deal of Tsvetaeva's prose into English, compiled in a book called A Captive Spirit. Tsvetaeva scholar Angela Livingstone has translated a number of Tsvetaeva's essays on art and writing, compiled in a book called Art in the Light of Conscience. Livingstone's translation of Tsvetaeva's "The Ratcatcher" was published as a separate book. Mary Jane White has translated the early cycle "Miles" in a book called "Starry Sky to Starry Sky," as well as Tsvetaeva's elegy for Rilke, "New Year's", (Adastra Press 16 Reservation Road, Easthampton, MA 01027 USA) and "Poem of the End"(The Hudson Review, Winter 2009) and "Poem of the Hill", (New England Review, Summer 2008). In 2002, Yale University Press
Yale University Press
Yale University Press is a book publisher founded in 1908 by George Parmly Day. It became an official department of Yale University in 1961, but remains financially and operationally autonomous....

 published Jamey Gambrell's translation of post-revolutionary prose, entitled Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries, 1917-1922, with notes on poetic and linguistic aspects of Tsvetaeva's prose, and endnotes for the text itself.

The Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

 set six of Tsvetaeva's poems to music. Later the Russian-Tatar composer Sofia Gubaidulina
Sofia Gubaidulina
Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina, is a Russian composer of half Russian, half Tatar ethnicity.Gubaidulina's music is marked by the use of unusual instrumental combinations...

 wrote a Hommage à Marina Tsvetayeva featuring her poems. Her poem "Mne Nravitsya..." ("I like that...")], was performed by Alla Pugacheva
Alla Pugacheva
Alla Borisovna Pugacheva or Pugachova , born 15 April 1949), is а Soviet and Russian musical performer. Her career started in 1965 and continues to this day...

 in the film Irony of Fate
Irony of Fate
The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! is a Soviet comedy-drama directed by Eldar Ryazanov as a made-for-TV movie. The screenplay was written by Emil Braginsky and Ryazanov, loosely based on Ryazanov's 1971 play Once on New Year's Eve . For distribution outside of the Soviet Union, the film was...

. In 2003, the opera Marina: A Captive Spirit, based on Tsvetaeva's life and work, premiered from American Opera Projects
American Opera Projects
American Opera Projects is a professional opera company based in New York City, NY and is a member of OPERA America, the Fort Greene Association, and the Alliance of Resident Theatres/ New York]] . The company's primary mission is to develop and present new works...

 in New York with music by Deborah Drattell
Deborah Drattell
Deborah Drattell is an American composer. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and started her career in music as a violinist. Her compositions have been performed by the New York Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Tanglewood and Caramoor Music Festivals, and many other groups and venues...

 and libretto by poet Annie Finch
Annie Finch
Annie Finch is an American poet. She is author of numerous books of poetry as well as poetry translation, poetry anthologies and criticism, opera libretti, and poetic collaborations with visual art, music, theater, and dance. Her writings on poetry address topics including meter and prosody,...

. The production was directed by Anne Bogart
Anne Bogart
-Biography:She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Bard College in 1974, followed by a Master of Arts degree from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 1977. She served as Artistic Director of the Trinity Repertory Company for its 1989-90 season...

 and the part of Tsvetaeva was sung by Lauren Flanigan
Lauren Flanigan
Lauren Flanigan is an American operatic soprano who has had an active international career since the 1980s. She has enjoyed a particularly fruitful partnership with the New York City Opera, appearing with the company almost every year since 1990...

.

Books of Tsvetaeva poetry in English translation

  • Marina Tsvetaeva: Selected Poems, trans. Elaine Feinstein. 1993, Oxford University Press.
  • The Ratcatcher: A lyrical satire, trans. Angela Livingstone (Northwestern University, 2000) ISBN 0-8101-1816-5
  • A Captive Spirit: Selected Prose, ISBN 0-8606-8397-4
  • Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries, 1917-1922, ed. & trans. Jamey Gambrell
  • Poem of the End: Selected Narrative and Lyrical Poems ,trans. Nina Kossman (Ardis / Overlook, 1998, 2004)ISBN 0-87501-176-4
  • In the Inmost hour of the Soul: Poems , trans. Nina Kossman (Humana Press, 1989) ISBN 0-89603-137-3

Further reading

  • Schweitzer, Viktoria Tsvetaeva (1993)
  • Mandelstam, Nadezhda Hope Against Hope
  • Mandelstam, Nadezhda Hope Abandoned
  • Pasternak, Boris An Essay in Autobiography

External links