Letters, Summer 1926: Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva, Rainer Maria Rilke

Front Cover
New York Review of Books, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 378 pages
0 Reviews
Edited by Yevgeny Pasternak, Yelena Pasternak, and Konstantin M. Azadovsky

The summer of 1926 was a time of trouble and uncertainty for each of the three poets whose correspondence is collected in this moving volume. Marina Tsvetayeva was living in exile in France and struggling to get by. Boris Pasternak was in Moscow, trying to come to terms with the new Bolshevik regime. Rainer Maria Rilke, in Switzerland, was dying. Though hardly known to each other, they began to correspond, exchanging a series of searching letters in which every aspect of life and work is discussed with extraordinary intensity and passion. Letters: Summer 1926 takes the reader into the hearts and minds of three of the twentieth century's greatest poets at a moment of maximum emotional and creative pressure.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

Letters, summer 1926: Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva, Rainer Maria Rilke

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Poets Pasternak, Marian Tsvetayeva, and Rainer Maria Rilke were not having a banner year in 1926: Pasternak was stuck in Moscow trying to stay out of the way of the Bolsheviks; Tsvetayeva was in ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
3
Letters
45
Epilogue
261
Two Essays
319
Notes
361
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2001)

Pasternak was acclaimed as a major poet some 30 years before Doctor Zhivago (1955) made him world famous. After first pursuing promising careers in music and philosophy, he started to write around 1909 and published his first collection of verse in 1914. His first genuine triumph came with the collection My Sister, Life (1917), in which a love affair stimulates a rapturous celebration of nature. The splendid imagery and difficult syntax of this volume are a hallmark of the early Pasternak. During the 1920s, Pasternak tried to accept the reality of the new society and moved from the lyric to the epic, taking up historical and contemporary subjects. The long poem The Year 1905 (1926) is an example. While tolerated by the literary establishment, Pasternak turned increasingly in the 1930s to translation rather than original verse. He was a prolific translator; his versions of major Shakespeare plays are the standard texts used in Soviet theaters. From the start, however, prose was an important focus for Pasternak. The most notable early work is the story "Zhenia's Childhood," written in 1918, which explored a girl's developing consciousness of her surroundings. There is also his artistic and intellectual autobiography Safe Conduct (1931). But Pasternak's greatest prose achievement came later with the novel Doctor Zhivago, written over a number of years and completed in 1955. Its hero, a physician and poet, confronts the great changes of the early twentieth century including world war, revolution, and civil war, and travels a path through life that creates a parallel between his fate and that of Christ. (The theme of preordained sacrifice is strengthened by the cycle of poems included as the last section of the book.) Doctor Zhivago was rejected for publication but appeared in 1957 in the West and won its author worldwide acclaim. A Nobel Prize followed in 1958. This led the Soviet authorities to launch a major public campaign against Pasternak and to make his personal life even more difficult. So successful were they that the poet officially turned down the award. After that, he was left in relative peace and died two years later. He was but the first of many writers in the post-Stalin period to challenge the Soviet state. During the 1970s and 1980s, Pasternak's heritage was cautiously brought into public purview in the Soviet Union. The Gorbachev period saw the removal of all restrictions on his work, and publication of Doctor Zhivago followed at long last. Several major editions of Pasternak's writings have appeared.

Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow in 1892. Her first volume of poetry was published in 1910 and attracted notice from some of the most important critics and poets in Russia, including Maximilian Voloshin. In 1922, following the Russian Civil War, she went into exile in Paris, where she became one of the leading writers of the emigre community. In 1939, she returned to the Soviet Union, and her husband was arrested shortly thereafter and subsequently executed by the NKVD. Tsvetaeva committed suicide in Elabuga, a small town to which she had been evacuated following the onset of World War II, in 1941.

More than any other modern German writer, Rainer Maria Rilke seems to match our romantic idea of what a poet should be, though, as with many writers, separating artistry from affectation is often difficult. Restless, sensitive, reverent, yet egotistical, Rilke often seems to hover in his poems like a sort of ethereal being. He was born in 1875 to a wealthy family in Prague. After a few years devoted to the study of art and literature, he spent most of his adult life wandering among the European capitals and devoting himself single-mindedly to poetry. His early poems reflect his interest in the visual and plastic arts, as he tries to lose himself in contemplation of objects such as an antique torso of Apollo.His later books of poetry, such as Duino Elegies (1923) and Sonnets to Orpheus (1923), on the contrary, focus intently on internal realms. The poetry of Rilke is noted, above all, for metaphysical and psychological nuances.

Bibliographic information