TSVETAEVA by Viktoria Schweitzer


Age Range: 1882 - 1941
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 Marina Tsvetaeva (1882-1941) is the least read of the four great modern Russian poets (Pasternak, Akhmatova, Mandelstam), her poems (translated here by Peter Norman) and fine theoretical prose as subject to drowning in the tempestuous waves of her life-history as anything else she held closest to her. Tsvetaeva knew everyone, loved everyone, idealized everyone (though married to poet Sergei Efron, her affairs were bisexual, transcontinental, discretionless)--and suffered poverty and scorn in the service of her genius. Lacking the outward gravitas of her peer poets, she was scandal incarnate--she makes George Sand seem like Emily Dickinson- -but with that quality came a gift for essentialism that in this poetic century perhaps is matched only by Rilke's; her love affairs were more acts of insanely pure idealization than genuine passions for an other. She lived out of Russia during much of the Twenties and Thirties; and then, against her better sense, went back--only to have her long-suffering, saintly husband and daughter promptly arrested and sent to perish in the gulag. Somehow, though, Tsvetaeva managed to continue with her art until her saddest of ends: a penniless suicide as the German Army approached. Schweitzer, a Mayakovsky archivist in Moscow before emigrating in 1978, has not a little of her subject's verve, valor, and hardheadedness: She scoffs, dismisses, clucks, repeats, wearies, worries, and wears down: that a nobody's-fool Russian woman of impossible stamina wrote this book would be guessable blind. But the book is chiefly indispensable for the whole picture of modern Russian literature it encompasses--analytical, social, and sexual. Sometimes a slog, but worth it. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: June 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-374-27945-4
Page count: 488pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1993