Magazine article Russian Life

Ahead of Her Time

Magazine article Russian Life

Ahead of Her Time

Article excerpt

Visionary artists are often misunderstood and persecuted by their contemporaries. Such was Pushkin's fate, and such was the fate of his admirer and self-proclaimed heir, Marina Tsvetaeva. Although the lives of these two poets are separated by a century, they share an unusual vitality and directness, along with the circumstances of their tragic lives.

Tsvetaeva's 49 years (1892-1941) were consistently shadowed by revolution. Her husband, Sergei Efron, was executed for "anti-Soviet activities." Her daughter Ariadna spent a decade in the gulag. For a large part of her life - in Russia, then abroad, then once again in Russia - Tsvetaeva, like many other great artists before and since, experienced poverty and the neglect of her peers.

Marina Tsvetaeva was born on October 8, 1892. Her father, Ivan Tsvetaev (1847-1913), was a corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, as well as a professor of ancient art and history at Moscow University. In 1911, the Museum of Fine Arts (the present-day Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, located near the newly restored Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow) was founded on his initiative.

From her earliest years, the young Marina moved in intellectual circles, rubbing shoulders with some of the most prominent figures in Russian culture - philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev, poet Pavel Antokolsky and writer Maxim Gorky. As a child, she visited Italy, Switzerland and Germany with her family, as well as the Crimea, which she fell in love with. Her early education took place at home and included music and language lessons She later attended Moscow's prestigious Pototskaya and Bryukhnenko schools.

Tsvetaeva began writing poetry practically from the time she learned to talk. In 1910, she published her first collection of poems, Vecherny Albom (Evening Album), which is filled with all the romanticism and idealism of her upbringing. In comparison, Juvenila (1916), is a calmer collection, more pacifist in tone, showing the effects of the First World War on the young poet. Tsvetaeva's poetry - through all its transmutations -is characterized by high energy and vividness and expresses her free, nonconformist spirit.

Throughout her life, Tsvetaeva was fascinated and inspired by Pushkin and saw herself as his literary heir. In her prose work, My Pushkin, Tsvetaeva wrote, rather immodestly: "I emerged from Pushkin. I am his heir, he is the God and inspiration of my poetry. In him lies the immortality of my poetry because we are both poets from God."

After her adolescence, Tsvetaeva's idyllic existence abruptly came to an end. …

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