The Same Solitude: Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva

Overview

Still, we have the same solitude, the same journeys and searching, and the same favorite turns in the labyrinth of literature and history."-Boris Pasternak to Marina Tsvetaeva One of the most compelling episodes of twentieth-century Russian literature involves the epistolary romance that blossomed between the modernist poets Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak in the 1920s. Only weeks after Tsvetaeva emigrated from Russia in 1922, Pasternak discovered her poetry and sent her a letter of praise and admiration. ...

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Overview

Still, we have the same solitude, the same journeys and searching, and the same favorite turns in the labyrinth of literature and history."-Boris Pasternak to Marina Tsvetaeva One of the most compelling episodes of twentieth-century Russian literature involves the epistolary romance that blossomed between the modernist poets Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak in the 1920s. Only weeks after Tsvetaeva emigrated from Russia in 1922, Pasternak discovered her poetry and sent her a letter of praise and admiration. Tsvetaeva's enthusiastic response began a decade-long affair, conducted entirely through letters. This correspondence-written across the widening divide separating Soviet Russia from Russian migr s in continental Europe-offers a view into the overlapping worlds of literary creativity, sexual identity, and political affiliation. Following both sides of their conversation, Catherine Ciepiela charts the poets' changing relations to each other, to the extraordinary political events of the period, and to literature itself. The Same Solitude presents the first full account of this affair of letters and poems from its beginning in the summer of 1922 to its denouement in the 1930s. Drawing on many previously untranslated letters and poems, Ciepiela describes the poets' mutual influence, both in the course of their lives and the development of their art. Neither poet saw any separation between a poet's life and work, and Ciepiela treats each poet's letters and poems as a single text. She discusses the poets' famous triangular correspondence with Rainer Maria Rilke in 1926, and she addresses the profound significance of Tsvetaeva for Pasternak, who is often perceived (mistakenly, Ciepiela asserts) as the more detached partner. Further, this book expands our understanding of poetic modernism by showing how the poets worked through ideas about gender and writing in the context of what they themselves called a literary "marriage."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Pasternak (1899–1960) was a Russian writer and poet best known for his novel Doctor Zhivago. Tsvetaeva (1892–1941) was also a Russian poet, whose work was distinctive for its powerful rhythms and lyrical directness. She lived in exile after 1922 but returned to the Soviet Union in 1939 and committed suicide two years later. When they discovered each other's poetry in 1922, they were just emerging as significant poets of their generation. Ciepiela reveals that their relationship was conducted almost entirely through text—'We have nothing except words, we're fated to them'—and that the task of telling this story is largely one of textual interpretation. The book's first two chapters chronicle the poets' evolving relationship in chronological fashion, moving back and forth between both sides of the conversation. The poems included here appear in both English and Russian. Drawing on previously untranslated letters and poems, Ciepiela details the poets' mutual influence in both their lives and their art."—George Cohen, Booklist, August 2006

"The Same Solitude is a fine study of the passionate fourteen-year epistolary conversation between the two poets and its fruits in their art. . . . Ciepiela, with admirable tact and erudition, maps the movement between emotional experience registered in the letters, and the metrical, rhythmic, metaphorical, and myth-laden structures of verse."—Rachel Polonsky, Times Literary Supplement, August 3, 2007

"Married to others and barely meeting in their temporal lives, Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva, two of Modernism's great poets of desire, carried on in poems and letters an enduring and passionate love affair. One stayed in Russia, committed for a while to the Revolution; the other emigrated to Paris then returned. One was a survivor, the other, eventually, a suicide. Disentangling the correspondences encrypted in their poems, Catherine Ciepiela achieves a remarkable and moving work of criticism and biography that illuminates a crucial relationship in twentieth-century literary history."—Honor Moore, author of Red Shoes

"Catherine Ciepiela's accomplished account of the correspondence between Tsvetaeva and Pasternak weaves together literary criticism, history, psychology, and gender studies. Firmly grounded in the Russian and Soviet poetic discourse of the 1920s and 1930s, full of controversial, thought-provoking insights, the narrative succeeds, above all, in bringing to life these two great poets, whose voices intertwine and draw apart in an immortal dance of words—letters, poems, arguments, confessions—performed across an ever-deepening gulf of families, politics, and time."—Olga Grushin, author of The Dream Life of Sukhanov

"Catherine Ciepiela's book offers the most detailed account in English of the complex relationship of two great twentieth-century Russian poets, Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak. It is remarkable for its very careful, illuminating, and nuanced analysis of their poetic philosophy and hermetic lyrical statements. The Same Solitude is an essential work for everyone interested in early twentieth century Russian literature. It places Ciepiela in the circle of the most authoritative specialists in Russian poetry."—Lazar Fleishman, Stanford University

"With few exceptions, the true poetic impulse of Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva comes across in the prose of their letters, the outlet available to their passionate and mercurial imaginations in an era when a published poem exuding a hint of the wrong sentiment could condemn a poet to exile or death. In The Same Solitude, with a blend of what Pasternak called 'the almighty God of details'—poems, letters, and essays both by and about them—and a degree of insight that borders on the uncanny, Catherine Ciepiela gives us a chance to experience the shudder of recognition."—Mark Rudman, winner of the National Book Critics Award for his poetic quintet, Rider, The Millennium Hotel, Provoked in Venice, The Couple, and Sundays on the Phone, and translator of Boris Pasternak's My Sister-Life

"With its impeccable scholarship, theoretical acumen, and rich, resourceful close readings, Catherine Ciepiela's The Same Solitude marks a major contribution to the study of Russian modernist poetry and gender."—Clare Cavanagh, Herman and Beulah Pearce Miller Research Professor in Literature, Northwestern University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801435348
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2006
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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