Saturday, 30 May 2015

Mikhail Sholokhov: From a Cossack homestead to a Nobel Prize

Mikhail Sholokhov is most famous for his epic four-volume novel And Quiet Flows the Don (1928-1932) about Don Cossacks during the World War I and the subsequent Civil War. A must-read of classic Russian literature, its author has sparked mystery, controversy and praise in equal measure.

1) The famous Cossack author was not a Cossack 

Sholokhov spent his childhood on a Cossack khutor – a single homestead or a small collection of homesteads – but it is not known exactly where he was born.

Although Sholokhov wrote so vividly and extensively about Cossacks, he was not actually a Cossack. His father was a middle-class manager of a steam mill, while his mother was a peasant who had been a servant before her marriage. Sholokhov was born as an illegitimate child, since his mother had been forced to marry the other man rather than his father. It was only after the writer’s stepfather died that his parents could finally get married.

2) Sartre gave him a helping hand 

In 1964, French writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre rejected the Nobel Prize for Literature, writing a statement expressing regret that the previous prize had not been awarded to Sholokhov, and that "the only Soviet work that received the prize was a book published abroad and banned in its own country" (meaning Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958)

It is believed that this statement influenced the Nobel Committee, and the prize was awarded to Sholokhov the following year "for the artistic power and integrity with which, in his epic of the Don, he has given expression to a historic phase in the life of the Russian people."

3) Film adaptations of the novel And Quiet Flows the Don 

The novel was adapted for the screen three times in Russia during the 20th century (1930, 1958, 1992). The 1958 screen version made by renowned director Sergei Gerasimov has received numerous international awards.

The equally famous Sergei Bondarchuk, who had already won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his screen version of War and Peace, directed the third version. This film was co-produced by the USSR, UK and Italy. The Italian producer filed for bankruptcy, and an Italian bank seized the almost completed film as part of the debt proceedings.

Bondarchuk died without seeing the film on screen; his son, Fyodor Bondarchuk, later produced an abridged version for TV.

4) A mysterious release from prison 

Sholokhov worked from the age of 15 in various professions, including as a porter and a schoolteacher. In 1922, while working as a village tax inspector, he was arrested for taking a bribe and sentenced to death by firing squad at a tribunal.

His father paid the hefty bail and produced a new certificate to the court stating that Sholokhov was 15 rather than 17. The death sentence was commuted to a year in a penal colony for minors. Sholokhov was being transported to the colony under escort, but he never arrived and did not serve any time. It is unclear exactly what happened during that journey.

5) Allegations of plagiarism 

Some critics challenged Sholokhov’s authorship of And Quiet Flows the Don, alleging that he had taken credit for the work of a White officer who had been shot by the Bolsheviks. These doubts were also fuelled by the view that such a profound, lengthy, subtle work could not have been written by a barely educated 21-year-old. Sholokhov's supporters responded by pointing to young geniuses like Johann Goethe, Thomas Mann and John Keats, as well as the poorly educated Maxim Gorky and Ivan Bunin (also a Nobel laureate).

The issue was finally resolved in 1984, when the Slavicist Geir Kjetsaa and his colleagues conducted extensive linguistic tests on the work that supported Sholokhov’s authorship.

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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Marina Tsvetaeva: You who loved me with the falsity

You who loved me with falsity

Of truth – and the truth of lies,
You who loved me – beyond extremity
Of wherever! – Beyond the skies!
You who loved me longer
Than Time. – Right hand: wave goodbye!
You love me no longer:
Truth in five words: no lie!


Translated by A. S. Kline © 2010

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Women on the Verge - Love Stories by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

For years, acceptable portrayals of Soviet women in art were limited to the ideal proletariat, a strong-jawed woman with flashing eyes and scythe in hand, or the fairy tale Snow Queen in furs.

It’s no surprise that the realistic short stories and pessimistic plays of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, who began writing in the 1960s, were banned until glasnost. Her bleak fictions depicted Soviet women as the human workhorses they were. They did not live in castles or picturesque garrets but in mini-gulags, subdivided apartments, which deprived the generations of families and strangers forced to cohabitate of any sense of privacy. (As a child, Petrushevskaya and her mother lived under a desk in her mentally ill grandfather’s room.) Her work was suppressed because she matter-of-factly described the horrors of domestic life in a society that abolished the self.

Many of Petrushevskaya’s stories can be considered fantastic. Her breakout book in America, “There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby,” was cheekily marketed as “Scary Fairy Tales.” These stories teemed with grotesque and supernatural elements that masked the real terror: how unrelenting misery transforms human beings into monsters.

The new collection, “There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself,” is slyly subtitled “Love Stories.” These 17 tales, selected and translated by Anna Summers, who herself grew up in those “cramped, ghoulish blocks of apartments,” follow Petrushevskaya’s writing career from her first published story in 1972 to one published on her 70th birthday in 2008. They are deeply unromantic love stories told frankly, with an elasticity and economy of language. The characters are often pathetic, incomprehensible. “Doctor Zhivago” this ain’t.

The first lines of the first story, “A Murky Fate,” establish the tone and themes of the book: “This is what happened. An unmarried woman in her 30s implored her mother to leave their studio apartment for one night so she could bring home a lover.” The lover turns out to be her co-worker — a slovenly, narcissistic married man. The next day she discovers that despite their dispassionate and perfunctory encounter, she is madly in love. Is it possible that she truly desires this toad? Or does she just want to enter the kingdom of tragic women who have loved and lost? Does it matter? Is it so wrong to want to have a love story?

A few stories capture a character in a Chekhovian moment of clarity; some read like family lore, recounted without fanfare or urgency; others echo the gossip women exchange like currency. What is consistent is the dark, fatalistic humor and bone-deep irony Petrushevskaya’s characters employ as protection against the biting cold of loneliness and misfortune that seems their birthright.

Even when a story ends with the narrator suggesting that a couple lived happily ever after, it rings false. We suspect the teller has tired of the story and is deliberately concluding on a mawkish note. What one can cling to is reward enough — a home, even if shared with a host of other miserables; children, even if they are scheming to steal your money and your home; a man, even if he is unfaithful, abusive and unpredictable.

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Anna Akhmatova: A Word about Pushkin

May 26, 1961 - Komarovo

MY PREDECESSOR, PAVEL SHCHEGOLYOV,1 concludes his work on Pushkin's duel and death with a series of speculations about why society and its spokesmen hated the poet and expelled him as an alien being from its midst. It is now time to turn this question around and speak aloud not about what they did to him, but what he did to them.

After an ocean of filth, deceit, lies, the complacency of friends and the plain foolishness of the Poletikas and non-Poletikas,2 the Stroganov clan,3 the idiot horseguardsmen, who made the d'Anths affair une affaire de regiment (a question of the regiment's honor), the sanctimonious salons of the Nesselrodes, et al.,the Imperial Court, which peeked through every keyhole, the majestic secret advisors-members of the State Council- who had felt no shame at placing the great poet under secret surveillance-after all of this, how exhilarating and wonderful it is to see the prim, heartless ("swinish" as Alexander Sergeyevich himself put it) and, to be sure, illiterate Petersburg watch as thousands of people, upon hearing the fateful news, rushed to the poet's house and remained there forever with all of Russia.

"Il faut que j'arrange ma maison (I must put my house in order)," said the dying Pushkin.
In two days' time his house became a sacred place for his Homeland, and the world has never seen a more complete or more resplendent victory.

Little by little, the entire era (not without reluctance, of course) came to be called the Pushkin era. All the beauties, ladies-in-waiting, mistresses of the salons, Dames of the Order of St.Catherine, members of the Imperial Court, ministers, aides-de-camp and non-aides-de-camp, gradually came to be called

Pushkin's contemporaries, and were later simply laid to rest in card catalogues and name indices (with garbled birth and death dates) to Pushkin's works.

He conquered both time and space. People say: the Pushkin era, Pushkin's Petersburg. And there is no longer any direct bearing on literature; it is something else entirely. on the palace halls where they danced and gossiped about the poet, his portraits now hang and his books are on view, while their pale shadows have been banished from there forever. And their magnificent palaces and residences are described by whether Pushkin was ever there or not. Nobody is interested in anything else. The Emperor Nikolai Pavlovich in his white breeches looks very majestic on the wall in the Pushkin Museum; manuscripts, diaries, and letters are valuable if the magic word "Pushkin" is there. And, the most terrifying thing for them is what they could have heard from the poet:

You will not be answerable for me,
You can sleep peacefully.
Strength is power, but your children
Will curse you for me.



And in vain do people believe that scores of handcrafted monuments can replace that one aere perennius (stronger than bronze) not made by hand.5

From "Anna Akhmatova, My Half Century" Selected prose edited by Ronald Meyer, © Ardis Publishers

Sunday, 24 May 2015

M.A. Sholokhov by C.P. Snow

It (The Quiet Don) was immediately an enormous success. We all read it at the time. It reached a very wide public. This was true all over the West. It seemed to many of us not only the first great novel written in the Soviet time, but a great novel by any standard. Many years later, it still seems so.

The critical reception was as near unqualified warmth as a modern novel can achieve.

It isn't for a foreigner to make predictions about which Russian works are going to be permanent classics, but my ghost will be restless unless this is one.
Tikhy Don (The Quiet Don) is a great novel, but under the lucid brilliant surface a mysterious and difficult one. On the surface it speaks of the bafflement of ordinary men--passionate men of flesh and bone--living in a particular time in history, a particular tempest of the world. If that were all, however, it wouldn't be read by young foreigners today, to whom that tempest, if they know about it at all, is a passage in their history book.

But under the surface of Tikhy Don there is a subjective passionate sense of life. A tragic sense of life. I have written that deliberately. Sometimes, as we say, an outsider sees most of the game. The superb end of the work, one of the starkest in literature, is an acceptance of death. Almost all the people who lived their lives through the long narrative are now dead. Death is the certainty with which there is no arguing. Gregor Melekhov is himself dying. The wonderful animal vitality is no good to any of them. Melekhov's only remaining link with life is with his infant son. This is his only hold on the future. He can hope that the child will have a better life in a better world. For himself, the end.

This is very much harsher than, for instance, the end of War and Peace or Karamazov. Only a writer of stern regard for the truthwould have finished so. It leaves us, curiously enough, on a note of something like exaltation.

That final volume was published in 1940 when Sholokhov was thirty-five and was acclaimed and read as the first part had been. He had, we have to remember, been world famous within months of the first part appearing. That is unusual, but not unprecedented. In the West, there are several comparable cases. The best known, perhaps, is Dickens, who was twenty-three when he began serializing the Pickwick Papers, even younger than Sholokhov in 1930, and became a national figure in England within weeks. Some writers seem to be born ready-made, so to speak, and have only to grow up to say what they have to say. Writers mature at different ages, and those less lucky envy the few who have gained great success when young.

May I put in a personal note? I suppose I am one of the comparatively few Westerners who can claim Sholokhov's acquaintance. He has called at my house on each of his visits to England. He sat at my bedside, cheering me up while I was waiting to go into hospital for an eye operation. I had the pleasure of seeing him receive an Honorary Degree from one of our oldest universities. He was the first Russian writer, we think, to be recognized in that way since Turgenev. In turn I have met Sholokhov frequently in the Soviet Union, and have enjoyed his open-handed hospitality at Veshenskaya, down on the Don. It was magical to spend summer days in that countryside, when one had read Tikhy Don so many years before.

(From the Anglo-Soviet Journal, December 1975).

Mikhail Sholokhov: Quiet Flows the Don

Holding the reins, Grigory watched the old man and was surprised at how easily he hurled his old, bony body into the saddle.

“Follow me!” the general ordered abruptly, his gloved hand gently pulling the reins.
Holding his head like a rooster, the four-year-old stallion surged under Grigory and started walking sideways. He was not shoed on his back legs, and when he stepped on the smooth ice, he slipped, squatted, and spurted on all his legs. In a slouchy, but stable position, old Master lulled on Krepysha’s back.

“Where are we going?” asked Grigory.

“To the Olshansky gully,” Master responded in a thick bass.

The horses walked harmoniously. The stallion pulled at the reins, bending his neck like a swan, squinting his convex eye towards his rider and attempting to bite his knee. We climbed the hill and Master let Krepysha trot. The dogs ran behind Grigory spreading out in a small arc. The old black bitch was running and sweeping the end of the horse’s tale with her humped muzzle. The stallion squatted, heated up, wanting to kick the intrusive bitch, but she just lagged, catching the eye of Grigory with a yearning anile gaze.

Russian literature — RT

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Soviets’ Cold War Choreographer - Leonid Yakobson

To create modern art in a classical mode is to face forward and backward at once, yoked to the past while inching toward the future. Only a fool or a genius would attempt it. So I had heard of the Soviet ballet choreographer Leonid Yakobson, whose modernist advances took place on hostile home territory. I had seen Vestris, the solo he created for a young Mikhail Baryshnikov that compressed an early ballet master’s mercurial life into a few minutes; it was the only contemporary work the superstar brought with him when he defected in 1974. I knew that the best dancers in Leningrad and Moscow had deemed the choreographer a God-given genius and a rebel to boot.

But whom did these artists, trapped behind the Iron Curtain, have to compare him with? Their praise could easily be dismissed as nationalist hype. After all, the standard American view is that the Soviet vanguard of ballet barely outlived Lenin. The ferment was in Paris, where the young Russian émigré George Balanchine collaborated with Stravinsky on the groundbreaking Apollo for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Then the action traveled west, with Balanchine. Thanks to him and his New York City Ballet, angular, plotless, modernist works replaced silly story ballets as the art form’s pride. Without Balanchine, the thinking goes, ballet would have buried itself in the past—and indeed, since the master’s death, in 1983, it has struggled to chart a future.

In Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia, Janice Ross soundly rejects this self-congratulatory and ultimately self-defeating account. A dance scholar at Stanford, she delivers on her claim that “during the initial years of the Cold War, the West did not have an exclusive purchase on experimentation in dance.” The book’s timing could not be better: for the past decade or so, the Russians have been rehabilitating works from the Stalinist era that brilliantly debunk the notion that Soviet ballet slept out the 20th century. And Yakobson is the ideal figure on whom to focus a corrected and expanded ballet history. Other choreographers also experimented fruitfully and were periodically squashed by the state, and their work might have been even better. But the Leningrad Jew who was raised with the revolution, and who died before its whole edifice collapsed, is the peerless Balanchine’s perfect complement—the yin to his yang. Enlarging the parameters of ballet that Balanchine laid out, Yakobson’s example justifies the ecumenical spirit spurring on the art form today.

Both Yakobson and Balanchine were formalists. Both understood choreography in essentially modernist terms—as a process of distillation, or “abstraction,” as it is more commonly known. But Balanchine began with the danse d’école, the movement lexicon inherited from the French court, while Yakobson started with the world, even if that meant setting the women’s pointe shoes aside and abandoning the standard turnout of the leg. Russian Orthodox to the end, Balanchine often presented the classical idiom as a veil through which to glimpse the metaphysical. The secular Yakobson saw ballet as a chance to illuminate our irrepressible natures and the eccentricities they breed. For an artist living through the most-repressive years of the Soviet regime, ballet’s penchant for idealization held no appeal: it reeked of ideological obfuscation. Feisty in temperament and fearless on principle, Yakobson homed in on what the Marxist marching orders “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” left out: unaccountable want.

Leonid Yakobson was born in St. Petersburg in 1904, the same year—in fact, the same month—as Balanchine. He too left home early, not to become a ward of Theater Street, as Balanchine did, but simply to eat. With the civil war spreading famine, his widowed mother sent her three sons to a children’s summer colony that promised food. But hunger and panic soon overtook the idyll, and caretakers fled. The children wandered until the American Red Cross gathered them up to transport them to Vladivostok, on the Pacific Ocean. The summer stretched into years. When it was finally time to go home, the weary tribe traveled by sea—15,000 miles.

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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Mikhail Vrubel - Biography

Mikhail Vrubel - selfportrait

Appearing at the end of 19th century, the paintings of Mikhail Vrubel represent some of the most significant and mysterious phenomenon of Russian art. A talented and tragic artist, Vrubel managed to convey his complex and inaccessible inner life through the medium of his unusual works.

Mikhail Vrubel was born in Omsk, into the family of a military lawyer. Due to his father’s work in the army, the family had to move often. Mikhail studied in different cities such as Omsk, Astrakhan, St. Petersburg and Odessa.

Vrubel first began taking painting lessons in 1864, in Saratov. After completing his gymnasium studies in Odessa, he entered the Saint Petersburg University, specializing in law. At the same time he attended lessons at the Academy of Arts.

Following his graduation from the university, Vrubel served in the army and worked in the war shipping administration. But, his artistic nature could not bear a routine military job and Mikhail entered the Russian Academy of Arts. As a student, he was noticed for his unorthodox style and original interpretation of classical themes. From 1884 to 1889 Vrubel worked in Kiev, having been invited by Professor Andrian Prakhov to restore about 150 elements of ancient frescoes and create new compositions for St. Cyril’s Church, built in the 12th century. Vrubel spent about 18 months in Venice, learning about the art of medieval painters and used this experience for creating four icons at St. Cyril’s Church. Vrubel used the image of Prakhov’s wife, Emilia, as a prototype for the Mother of God in one of these icons.

Demon Seated in a Garden, 1890

One of the most talked-of events in Vrubel’s career was his participation in creating paintings for St. Vladimir’s Cathedral. After the cathedral was built in 1882, Professor Prakhov was put in charge of its inner decorations. Prakhov gathered a team of painters, including Mikhail Vrubel. The artist spent a great deal of time making sketches for wall paintings, such as “Resurrection,” “Lamentation” and “Angel with Censer and Candle.” His sketches, however, were not approved by the executive commission, which stated that the works were made in an unusual, innovative manner and didn’t correspond to religious canons.

But Vrubel’s biographers say that the painter was also dismissed from the project because he was in love with Prakhov’s wife Emilia. The jealous professor didn’t want the artist to do any large works in the cathedral and replaced him with another famous painter, Viktor Vasnetsov. However, Vrubel wished to continue his work and asked Prakhov to at least let him do simple jobs. As a result, only a few ornaments made by Mikhail Vrubel can be found in the cathedral.

According to experts, if the artist had realized his initial sketches, the entire cathedral would look much different, with a much more mystic and cosmic character. Interestingly, Vrubel’s name was not even mentioned on the annotative board listing those who worked on the project.

Some biographers also mention the painter’s early symptoms of mental disorders among other reasons for his dismissal from the St. Vladimir’s Cathedral project. Over a period of time theses symptoms grew into a serious disease. Mikhail Vrubel distanced himself from Christ and gradually devoted his art to a different subject – the devil. The image of Satan later became the dominating theme of his numerous works. While living in Kiev, Vrubel also created his secular works “Self-Portrait” (1882), “The Oriental Tale” (1886) and “Portrait of a Girl against a Persian Carpet” (1886) among others. These paintings showed the artist’s skill in working with bright colors and floral motifs.

Mikhail Vrubel created several decorations for Savva Mamontov’s theater (for instance, the curtain “Night in Italy”). In 1890 the artist began his work in ceramics and made a few sculptural works on subjects from Russian and Slavic mythology such as “Lel,” “Kupava,” and “Berendey.” Within two years Vrubel became the head of the ceramic workshop.

Savva Mamontov invited Vrubel to join him on a tour of Europe and the artist visited Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and Paris. The journey inspired Vrubel to create bright and heart-warming paintings and watercolors, including “Spain,” “Fortune-teller” and “Venice.”

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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Leonid Leonov: The Tramp

The tea was like brewed hay, and the sugar tasted like kerosene. Chadaev tossed the unfinished cup down onto the table and listened absentmindedly to the hubbub in the inn. By midday, as always during the Sunday bazaars, the commotion was growing louder, but Chadaev was wrapped in total silence. Suddenly he stood up, and with his arms extended forward, he moved toward the tavern's rear door. Valuing the irreproachable reputation of his establishment more than his single eye, the tavern-keeper came out to follow Chadaev, but his suspicions were in vain.

In the greenish, strong-smelling dusk of the courtyard that was streaked with light coming in through the cracks, the lodger harnessed his mare. Soft and straight-haired, the mare reluctantly pulled away from the abundantly filled feeding trough. The lodger didn't get angry; he didn't even notice. However, he picked up a crust of bread that someone had dropped on the dirty straw. He gazed at it for a long time before placing it into his traveling bag. Disappointed in the secret of Chadaev, the tavern-keeper came out of his hiding place. Chadaev became embarrassed.

"The dogs will probably be happy to see this," he said quietly about the bread.

"And who will be happy to see you?" the tavern-keeper responded; and winking his malicious, smirking eye, he went back into the tavern.

Chadaev rode out of the courtyard.

The April midday was filled with the short warbling of larks. Water puddles rippled with dazzling light; an illusive murmur filled the world. Filtering through to the heart, it instilled a pleasant, almost intoxicating lightness; but to Chadaev, this spring, his forty-fifth, seemed like an excess of nature gone mad. Pulling his wife's letter out from his bosom, a letter for whose sake he was prematurely and against all common sense leaving the district center, he again attempted to fathom its worrisome scribblings. "My dear husband," he read mainly from memory, "I am pining. My dear husband, I cry every day. My dear husband, I don't know how to pass the time. My dear husband, we...." The artful words rustled on the wind and lashed at Chadaev with a cruel and joyful laughter. With an equal force he lashed his horse with the whip, and the cart runners began to sputter depressingly in the well-worn rut.

To the envy of the world, good fortune had accompanied him his entire life. In the year before he was called up for service, he had married the ever-cheerful Katerinka; Katerinka's boisterous youth did not fade even in his ancient, creaking home, where every spring the incessant warbling of starlings sounded in the windows. Provided with everything needed for conquering life, Chadaev lacked only the gift of laughter; but even this bitter injustice of nature brought an advantage to him: he was feared. The war spared his tall, reddish body, which looked like a pine tree against the sunset; he returned intact, having received not so much as a black-eye. But then suddenly, petty misfortunes, like mice, began to plague him. He fought with them for a whole year, getting crazy from the battle, but still hordes of them attacked to gnaw at his celebrated prosperity. On days of respite, he bitterly looked into himself but could find no cause for his ruin. Only now, traveling to this latest punishment of fate, did he recall one adventure at the front...and although a muzhik is not ashamed of any sin that is covered in a soldier's greatcoat, this recollection burned and gnawed away at Chadaev's very essence, and there was no way to root it out.

During a lull in the war and the revolutionary liberties, his inglorious regiment languished under the southern sun. There, Chadaev took up with a Moldavian woman, a peasant just like himself. She was as comforting as his own Katerinka and, in fact, she went by the same name. She was pining over her husband, who was languishing in captivity. She was attracted to Chadaev's restless northern strength. He spent his days and nights in her little home under the acacias, he ate her chickens and drank her wine, and he often discussed the hidden charms of this little Moldavian with his circle of friends. He took a temporary delight in her Moldavian love. Chadaev left her without regrets, and the woman's tears prevented her from seeing that, along with her brief happiness, he was carrying away to the north her sewing machine, which he had taken a fancy to during one of their tender moments.... Chadaev could still not forget how he traveled for seventeen inclement days on the train, lolling in a typhoid-induced drowsiness, firmly clenching the stolen treasure between his knees. For him, it became more dear than bread or life because he was bringing it as a present for his northern Katerinka, whom he decided was the basis of his essentially dreamlike happiness. But when in the evening, as the cattle were being driven home, he stepped up onto the porch of his home, hungry and sweaty, swaying under the weight of his cherished burden, Katerinka began to cry. Halting, Chadaev gazed with turbid eyes at the crying woman, and his beard became like fire, as if he were carrying someone else's blood in it from the war.

His illness and awakening to life opened for him strange treasures, which had hitherto stood outside of his meager, antlike way of life. He looked with sorcererlike eyes all around himself and, in a non-muzhik way, he admired everything--from the flying midge to the growing tree; however, the muzhik in him won out over the man. All winter he worked with great energy to put the decrepit farm back to rights--clearing out the garden and erecting a number of starling houses in front of the home, as if attempting to lure happiness itself into the moss-covered walls. But the starlings never settled in, the apple trees were wormy, and Katerinka's gaiety left with the snows. Then he worriedly awaited children; but although there were dreams of fertility, there were no children. Katerinka flailed about like nettle-grass against a bathhouse window. She often ran from their home to the neighbors, and began to look older than her mother. But once she came back from hay-mowing looking light and young; she was silent and sat by the window all evening. During the night, when everything in the Chadaev household--cattle and possessions--was slumbering, Katerinka began to laugh in her sleep. Descending from the stove, Chadaev gloomily studied her as she tossed and turned, illuminated by the thieves' light of the moon. No matter how hard Chadaev peered through this small crack into Katerinka's secret, he could perceive nothing that night. It was quiet all around, with not even the smallest wind outside the window.

By dawn the rains abated, days of good weather rushed in, and the lost smile returned to the home. Alone with her thoughts, Katerinka sang the old songs of young women; and although she lacked the voice to sing them to the end, her husband excitedly rejoiced in her transformation. Abundance again visited this creaking place, and birds sang in the trees, as if purchased specially for this purpose. Chadaev slumbered on like a mountain, lullabied by the wind, and only this last letter from his wife, this splash of another's happiness, aroused his cumbersome torpor. Abandoning his business in the district town, where he had gone on the matter of an arrears payment, he was returning home, like to an inevitable grave.

The innkeeper had foretold the truth--even the dogs had all run off. No one greeted the master. Tying the mare to the wattle fence, Chadaev intently gazed at the unanswering holes of the windows, corseted with the luster of sunset. An icicle under the awning let fall tiresome drops. Chadaev furiously whipped it with his knout, and again waited; but his wife was not there. Then a boy sailing boats on a melted pond shouted to him through the paling that Katerinka was at the settlements with Seryoga. Chadaev shuttered and looked around: the neighbor's mare, looking for a stud, was scratching herself by a tree, and two old women at the well were unabashedly studying him and his confusion.

Then, in his caftan and with his knout, Chadaev set off for the settlements, and again his hands themselves stretched out in front of him, as if hurrying to some villainy.


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Monday, 18 May 2015

Dmitri Shostakovich - The second waltz

Dmitry Merezhkovsky: The Curse of Love

WITH heavy anguish, hopeless straining,
The bonds of love I would remove.
Oh, to be loosed from their enchaining!
Oh, freedom, only not to love!

The soul that shame and fear are scourging
Crawls through a mist of dust and blood.
From dust, great God, my spirit purging,
Oh, spare me from love’s bitter flood!

Is pity’s wall alone unshaken?
I pray to God, I cry in vain,
More weary, by all hope forsaken;
Resistless love grows great again.

There is no freedom, unforgiven,
We live as slaves, by life consumed;
We perish, tortured, bound and driven,
Promised to death, and to love—doomed.

Deutsch and Yarmolinsky, comps. Modern Russian Poetry. 1921.

The Life of Maximilian Voloshin - Poet of the Inner Revolution

Maximilian Voloshin was a great poet. He was an artist, a visionary, a man insight who stood as one in his allegiance with Truth.

Voloshin is today unknown in the West, untranslated. He is forgotten in a time when neither the artist or the poet are held in esteem, when truth is misunderstood.

Maximilian Voloshin’s clear understanding of the human condition enabled him to see past the thick illusion of events of his own Russian nation – the revolution and civil war that lead to the creation of the Soviet Union.

Voloshin developed a “spiritual and religious world vision” of “a single world witnessing from which everything radiated.”

In self-knowledge and art, Voloshin always chose “the most reasonable way: make oneself an artist, personally experience and realize the differences.”

He clearly sensed the moment of his realization of spiritual essence and his link to the Absolute. “Something has happened.. I have never been so overwhelmed with joy, strength and confidence..., a feeling of joy, strength and completeness of existence, comprehension of a hidden spiritual sense ... when the heart opens.”

It was his spiritual and religious perception of the world that helped Voloshin to develop divine principles of purity and innocence, devotion, resiliency – drawn primarily from his attitude to the Earth:


I’ve had delusions, no doubt
Temptations, weaknesses at times.
Despite all that, whenever I
Faded in sorrow and delight,
My light has never gone out.


Maximilian Voloshin did not take sides. He stood as one with the Truth.


SEEKING THE HUMAN TRUTH: reborn at the century’s turn
Born in Kiev in 1877, on Whit Monday when the Earth is said “to celebrate Her birthday,” Voloshin spent much of his youth in Crimea, a land of many cultures, fabled as far back as even the ancient Greeks in the songs of Homer.

From childhood he was noted for his remarkable memory and eagerness to perceive reality – “to see, understand, know and experience everything.” He started writing verses as early as secondary school and became extremely demanding of himself. Voloshin’s distinctive way of thinking allowed him to realize at an early age that the existing educational system was not a source of true knowledge. “None of the ideas or bits of knowledge have ever been picked up from either a secondary school or university,” he observed.

Voloshin’s destiny was favourable to his spiritual seeking. At the age of sixteen he moved to the Crimea, to Koktebel, a place that he later identified as a “true motherland of his spirit.” At this young age, Voloshin developed a “new attitude of a European to Earth and human beings,” realizing the Divine Nature of the Mother Earth:


For me the sense of existence
Is not difficult to realize.
A seedlet that brings forth a life,
A secret of blossom, for instance,
In plants and in stones – everywhere,
In mountains and clouds above them,
In beasts and in starlets up there
I hear the singing of flame....
I’m kneeling down to kiss the ground,
The night wraps everything around,
My lips are feeling it is close,
The wormwood-scented breast of Yours,
Oh, Mother Earth!


In later years, the young Voloshin studied law in Moscow, a time he called a “futile and fruitless search.” “We are,” he wrote, “in a jail of discovered spaces. The spirit chokes in the old world’s embraces.”

As a result of his voice in student protests, Voloshin was sent in exile in remote regions of the Russian Empire in Middle Asia. This perhaps was a blessing. In a caravan of camels, he travelled the deserts, absorbing the cultures of the East. This banishment to Middle Asia brought to him an acquaintance with Asia and the Orient which was, as Voloshin admits, “crucial for his spiritual life.” He was gifted a realization of his own spiritual essence. He sensed “the antiquity and relativity of European culture.” At twenty-seven years, Voloshin now considered the turn of the century as “the year of his spiritual birth.”


Everyone may be born twice. Isn’t it me.
Born in the spirit,
Right at the turn of the century?...
I found myself in the heart of Asia
Wisely interned there by destiny?


These years established the bedrock of his spirituality, which sprouted within him as an intense seeking in Paris in about 1900. There to study art, he found instead frustration amid the fruitless bounty of his teachers and their blinkered students. But from this came a realization of his spiritual essence. “It was a sense of desert – that breadth and balance that a human soul is given when it returns to its original motherland.”

His acquaintance with the Orient helped him to see the scantiness of European knowledge, true and imaginary values of European civilization. Later Voloshin mentioned that during his studies in the West he was “only a sponge absorbing everything through eyes and ears.” Travelling around Europe for many years Voloshin mastered the art of the paintbrush and pencil, as well as the art of the word.

Maximilian Voloshin got to know the entire European culture in its origin and then he screened off all that was “European” so that only the “human” remained. After that, he turned to other civilizations – India and China – to learn and “seek after the Truth.” An opportunity to come closer to the Orient in its origins – Buddhism – was the first religious step for Voloshin. In the “wanderings of his spirit,” he was trying to find the single religion that would embody the highest and all-permeating spirituality, a culture with internal integrity, harmony and balance in all parts, excluding contradictions between individual and society, belief and knowledge, mind and emotions. Voloshin was familiar with an Oriental system of the universe and believed in the existence of many gods, although he admitted that he could not think of his spirit outside Christ.

Touring Europe, Voloshin began to realize the role of the Mother in spiritual transformation. He wrote about Mary’s presence at the crucifixion of Jesus. “To the right of the cross there is the Mother and a lancebearer, to the left – John and a spongebearer.”


WAR AND REVOLUTION: I am in everyone
Voloshin’s concentration on the Divine and his understanding of differences between eternal and non-eternal existence helped him not only to preserve the purity of his spirit throughout revolutionary and post-revolutionary time but also foresee the course of events. “An interest in occultist cognition was so great that it completely distracted me from Russian events in 1905 and held me away from Russia.... Neither war or revolution ever frightened or disappointed me: I had expected that would occur and be even worse. On the contrary, I felt well-adapted to the conditions of revolutionary existence and acting.”

A vision of “cosmic moral sense” of these events enabled Voloshin to remain a detached witness in the continuing drama:


In your world I’m a passerby -
Close to all, but strange to everything


Voloshin’s optimism and “justification of reality” that he considered his first and only duty to the world were based on his internal need to leave it all to God’s Will:


Forgetting doesn’t mean to lose,
Yet to accept it all in full
And keep it in oneself forever.


Maximilian Voloshin not only refused to participate in war, but also started an active “struggle against terror irrespective of its colours.” This gave the poet an “extensive and valuable revolutionary experience.”


These days no foe or brother can be found
All are in me, and I’m in everyone.
So zealots, every of its kind
Thought that a poet was to find
For them protection, and advise them too.
But then I’ve done all that I ever could
To prevent the brothers from ruining themselves and killing each other.


Voloshin’s spiritual stance enabled the poet “in most troubled times” to find such words and perspective that were “acceptable to both parts.” His tolerance and ability to resist the temptation of hatred, contempt, “sacred anger,” and “keep tirelessly loving both enemies and monsters of cruelty and even allies” was strengthened by a belief that love will in the future be a sole basis for human society.

In 1917 Voloshin returned to Russia. This was just at the time of the bloodletting of the revolution. “When a mother is sick, the children don’t leave her,” he said. ...

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Fyodor Dostoevsky: Under the Gun

From a letter to his brother. Dostoevsky had been arrested in 1849 for associating with a circle of liberals. After ten years of prison and serving as a soldier, he returned to St. Petersburg, later publishing The House of the Dead, a novel based on his experiences in prison; in The Idiot a character is subjected to a mock execution: for “at least a quarter of an hour, he passed in the undoubted conviction that in several minutes he suddenly would die.” Dostoevsky died at the age of fifty-nine in 1881.

Brother, my precious friend! All is settled! I am sentenced to four years’ hard labor in the fortress (of Orenburg, I believe), and after that to serve as a private. Today, the twenty-second of December, we were taken to the Semyonov drill ground. There the sentence of death was read to all of us, we were told to kiss the cross, our swords were broken over our heads, and our last toilet was made (white shirts). Then three were tied to the pillar for execution. I was the sixth. Three at a time were called out; consequently, I was in the second batch and no more than a minute was left me to live.

I remembered you, brother, and all yours; during the last minute you, you alone, were in my mind, only then I realized how I love you, dear brother mine! I also managed to embrace Pleshcheyev and Durov, who stood close to me, and to say goodbye to them. Finally the retreat was sounded and those tied to the pillar were led back, and it was announced to us that His Imperial Majesty granted us our lives. Then followed the present sentences. Palm alone has been pardoned, and returns with his old rank to the army.

I was just told, dear brother, that today or tomorrow we are to be sent off. I asked to see you. But I was told that this was impossible; I may only write you this letter: make haste and give me a reply as soon as you can.

I am afraid that you may somehow have got to know of our death sentence. From the windows of the prison van, when we were taken to the Semyonov drill ground, I saw a multitude of people; perhaps the news reached you, and you suffered for me. Now you will be easier on my account.

Brother! I have not become downhearted or low-spirited. Life is everywhere life, life in ourselves, not in what is outside us. There will be people near me, and to be a man among people and remain a man forever, not to be downhearted nor to fall in whatever misfortunes may befall me—this is life; this is the task of life. I have realized this. This idea has entered into my flesh and into my blood.

Yes, it’s true! The head which was creating, living with the highest life of art, which had realized and grown used to the highest needs of the spirit, that head has already been cut off from my shoulders. There remain the memory and the images created but not yet incarnated by me. They will lacerate me, it is true! But there remains in me my heart and the same flesh and blood which can also love, and suffer, and desire, and remember, and this, after all, is life. We see the sun! Now, goodbye, brother! Don’t grieve for me!

Kiss your wife and children. Remind them of me continually; see that they do not forget me. Perhaps we shall yet meet some time! Brother, take care of yourself and of your family; live quietly and carefully. Think of the future of your children.

Live positively. There has never yet been working in me such a healthy abundance of spiritual life as now. But will my body endure? I do not know. I am going away sick, I suffer from scrofula. But never mind! Brother, I have already gone through so much in life that now hardly anything can frighten me. Let come what may!

And maybe we shall meet again some time, brother! Take care of yourself, go on living, for the love of God, until we meet. Perhaps some time we shall embrace each other and recall our youth, our golden time that was, our youth and our hopes, which at this very instant I am tearing out from my heart with my blood, to bury them.

Can it indeed be that I shall never take a pen into my hands? I think that after the four years there may be a possibility. I shall send you everything that I may write, if I write anything, my God! How many imaginations, lived through by me, created by me anew, will perish, will be extinguished in my brain or will be spilled as poison in my blood! Yes, if I am not allowed to write, I shall perish. Better fifteen years of prison with a pen in my hands!

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The Tolstoys today: Tracking down a famous family

The importance of family values was a theme that Leo Tolstoy explored thoroughly in his work. His novel Anna Karenina presents the idea of family as something almost sacred, and one of the central characters in War and Peace, Countess Natasha Rostova, who is first depicted as a flighty and rather promiscuous girl, later finds real happiness with her family and her children. Tolstoy’s autobiographical trilogy, which comprises the novels Childhood, Boyhood and Youth, also revolves around his relationship with his relatives.

A devoted family man, Tolstoy had 13 children. Four died either in infancy or early childhood, while the rest mostly left Russia in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. During Tolstoy’s lifetime, all his family members contributed to the dissemination of his literary work and legacy, a devotion that continued after the author passed away. Tolstoy’s wife, Sophia Andreyevna, copied – by hand, no less — War and Peace in its entirety numerous times; in 1917 his eldest daughter Tatyana became the first director of his memorial museum, Yasnaya Polyana, while his other daughters Maria and Alexandra were his aides and authorized representatives.


According to tolstoys.ru, there are currently almost 400 descendants of Leo Tolstoy living in different countries. Quite a few of them continue their famous ancestor’s work, preserve his legacy and study his many writings.


One of them is Vladimir Tolstoy, 52, who is Leo Tolstoy’s great-grandson. During the 1990s, he wrote several articles to notify the public about the illegal logging taking place on the grounds of Yasnaya Polyana estate, and in 1994 he was appointed the museum’s director. Under his management Yasnaya Polyana was revived and transformed into a major cultural center.


Incidentally, it was Vladimir Tolstoy who organized the first convention for Leo Tolstoy’s descendants in 2000, returning the family members to their roots. The convention has since become a traditional event and is held on the estate every two years.


In 2012, Vladimir Tolstoy became President Vladimir Putin’s cultural advisor, while his wife, Ekaterina Tolstaya, took over the role of Yasnaya Polyana’s director.

When 2015 was designated the Year of Literature in Russia, Vladimir Tolstoy was invited to take part in its organizing committee, an appointment that came off the back of his organizational role for 2014’s All Tolstoy in a Single Click project, which was of the major literary events of the year.

The project involved digitizing the complete works of Leo Tolstoy - comprising 90 volumes, including the writer’s letters and diaries – to make them available online free of charge. Several thousand volunteers from all over the world took part in the initiative, helping to proofread the digitized material.

“The work was presented as like a game, a competition of sorts: participants tried to do more than the others, proofreading as much as they could. It was a tremendous contribution for the future generations. I think we still do not fully comprehend the depth of what has been done,” says Vladimir Tolstoy.

“By creating an electronic version of his complete works, we actually fulfilled Leo Tolstoy's will – we made his work accessible to everyone,” says another great-granddaughter of the novelist, famous Russian TV presenter Fyokla Tolstaya, who managed the project.

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Saturday, 16 May 2015

The murder of Mayakovsky's poetry

Biographers are amateur private detectives’, Roman Jakobson once wrote. If so, there are few juicier cases than Vladimir Mayakovsky. For even his death presents a double murder: the suicide of the man and the annihilation of his poetry. The crime scene remains intact – preserved for us by Pasternak. The corpse lies, alone in a room, with a bullet through the heart. The murder weapon – a Mauser pistol – was provided by an agent of Stalin’s secret police. The suicide note is a startling poem – with a new pun. ‘Between eleven and twelve the ripples were still circling around the shot’, wrote Pasternak, on 14 April 1930. ‘The news rocked the telephones, blanketed faces with pallor. He lay on his side with his face to the wall, sullen and imposing, with a sheet up to his chin, his mouth half open as in sleep. Haughtily turning his back on all, even in this repose, even in this sleep, he was stubbornly straining to go away somewhere… death had arrested an attitude which it almost never succeeds in capturing. This was an expression with which one begins life but does not end it. He was sulking and indignant.’

At eight o’clock that evening, Mayakovsky has his skull drilled so that his brain could be preserved, as an organ of genius, for future generations in the USSR. When weighed, it was found to be 360 grams heavier than Lenin’s, ‘which meant a bit of a headache for the ideologues of the Brain Institute’. An inquest into the cause of death was launched immediately. It found that the poet had shot himself ‘for personal reasons’. But in this fascinating, long overdue biography, Bengt Jangfeldt presents a more complex solution.

Cause of death? Frustrated poetry.

Born in rural Georgia in 1893, Mayakovsky had an innate capacity for memorising and reciting verse. He only began writing it, as a teenager, when jailed for Bolshevik agitation. He served five months in solitary confinement, in Moscow’s notorious Butyrka prison, reading Byron, Shakespeare and Tolstoy ‘without great enthusiasm’. On release, Mayakovsky is said to have leapt out, a fully formed poet — like Pallas Athena from the brain of Zeus. In 1912, already obsessed with creating a new kind of poetic language, capable of articulating the coming revolution, he joined the Futurist movement and started touring Russia, reading his poetry to anyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t). One early performance in Kiev was attended by ‘the governor-general, the chief of police, eight police commissars, 16 assistant commissars, 25 police supervisors, 60 police constables…. 50 mounted police were outside.’ Mayakovsky was delighted. ‘What poets, apart from ourselves, have been honoured with such a state of war?’, he demanded. ‘Ten policemen for every poem read. That’s what I call poetry.’ Already, Mayakovsky was a complex character. An ambidextrous cardsharp, who took losing as a personal insult; a proletarian agitator, who dressed like a dandy; a germ-fearing hypochondriac, smoking 100 cigarettes a day; a lady-killer with rotten teeth, causing a string of abortions wherever he went. He transformed perfectly successful romances into desperate and blistering love lyrics. Massive and overbearing, at six foot three, always beating out the rhythm of his verse with his steel toe caps and a cane, he made constant jokes, but rarely laughed at them. He had a shaven head, the demeanour of a ‘hooligan’, and when deprived of an audience he turned out to be neurotic and very gentle. Even his name, from the Russian word for ‘Lighthouse’, sounded like he’d made it up. His living arrangements were also unorthodox. From around 1915, until shortly before his death, he lived in a complicated ménage a trois, with his muse, Lilya, and her husband, the critic Osip Brik.

The sheer, shocking inventiveness of Mayakovsky’s poems is nigh impossible to translate. ‘I always put the most characteristic word at the end of a line and find for it a rhyme at any cost’, Mayakovsky explained in his essay ‘How To Make Verse’. ‘As a result, my rhymes are almost always out of the ordinary and, in any case, have not been used before me and do not exist in rhyming dictionaries.’ His poems fizz with ‘grammatical deformations, bizarre inversions, neologisms and puns’. According to one Russian critic, the English equivalent of a conservative Mayakovskian rhyme would be Browning’s ‘ranunculus’ with ‘Tommy-make-room-for-your-uncle-us’. What does come across in English, however, is the brilliance and brutality of his metaphors. ‘My poems’, he explains, ‘Jump out / like mad gladiators / ‘Kill!’ / they cry.’ In one, he invites the sun to have tea with him; in another, he inserts it, like a monocle, in his gaping eye. He orders firemen to climb into his heart, to put out an inferno. He complains he was ‘sired by Goliaths - / I, so large, so unwanted’, but says he is so tender, as a lover, that he is not a man ‘but a cloud in trousers’.

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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Marina Tsvetaeva: A kiss on the forehead

A kiss on the forehead—erases misery.
I kiss your forehead.

A kiss on the eyes—lifts sleeplessness.
I kiss your eyes.

A kiss on the lips—is a drink of water.
I kiss your lips.

A kiss on the forehead—erases memory.

1917

Lenin's lover? Picture of woman described as his true love uncovered

The photograph of Apollinariya Yakubova, who refused to marry Lenin, was discovered by a Russian history expert in London.
The photograph of Apollinariya Yakubova, who refused to marry Lenin, was discovered by a Russian history expert in London. Photograph: State Archive of the Russian Federation
A London-based academic has uncovered a photograph of the woman described by some as Vladimir Lenin’s true love and the “primeval force of the black earth” by her contemporaries, after the image was lost for nearly a century.

Dr Robert Henderson, a Russian history expert at Queen Mary University London, uncovered a photograph of Apollinariya Yakubova – a Russian revolutionary who fled to King’s Cross in London at the turn of the 20th century.

Yakubova and her husband were close associates with Lenin and his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, who lived intermittently in London between 1902 and 1911, although Yakubova and Lenin were known to have a tempestuous and fractious relationship over the policies of the Russian Social Democratic Labour party.

As first reported by the Camden New Journal, Henderson uncovered the photograph in the bowels of the State Archive of the Russian Federation in Moscow in April while researching the life of another young revolutionary, Vladimir Burtsev, for a book.

According to the academic, Lenin called Yakubova by the pet name “Lirochka”, which can be roughly translated as “a bit like ‘Bobbykins’,” he said.

Yakubova, then 27 and living in a now-demolished building in Regent Square near the British Library in central London, was a force of nature, known for orchestrating debates on communist doctrine in the East End. She was also a key member of a group running lecturing society debates in Whitechapel.

In an academic paper due to appear in the December 2015 issue of Revolutionary Russia, Henderson writes that she was “possessed of an indomitable spirit and boundless energy”.

Daughter of a priest, she studied at the physics and mathematics department of the St Petersburg Higher Courses for Women, before teaching evening and Sunday classes for workers. It was there she formed a close friendship with Lenin’s wife-to-be.

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Saturday, 2 May 2015

Legendary Russian Ballerina Maya Plisetskaya Dies at 89



Maya Plisetskaya, widely regarded as one of the greatest ballerinas of her time, died Saturday, Russia-24 television reported citing Bolshoi Theatre director Vladimir Urin.


Biography

Plisetskaya is renowned as one of the world's greatest and most charismatic ballerinas. Her slender physique combined with outstanding technique and effervescent personality have enabled her to steal the hearts of Indira Gandhi, Robert Kennedy and Mao Zedong alike. Plisetskaya has revolutionised the world of ballet once and for all, becoming a role model for millions of aspiring artists worldwide. Writing in her autobiography, Plisetskaya says: “a person's character is his fate”. Indeed, more than most, Plisetskaya demonstrated how strength of personality can bring about amazing success. At eleven years old, she was labelled a “daughter of an enemy of the people”. By the time she was eighteen, she was the leading dancer at the most prestigious ballet company in the USSR. Maya Plistetskaya was born to a family of Jewish artists. Plisetskaya's father was executed during the Stalinist purges in 1935, while her mother, a silent-film actress, was arrested and sent to a labour camp in Kazakhstan together with her seven-month-old son. As a result, the future prima ballerina was adopted and Image from www.foto-list.ru Image from www.foto-list.ru brought up by her aunt, Sulamith Messerer, who would later become the founder of the Tokyo Ballet.

It was Messerer's support which gave the budding ballerina guidance. Despite the hardships of World War II, she insisted that Maya continued taking ballet classes and even moved to Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg), where a branch of the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre was rumoured to have been transferred.

However, these rumours proved false. This caused major worries for the aspiring ballerina: without training she would soon lose shape and, as a result, would be forced to give up her passion. Plisetskaya heard that a small part of the Bolshoi was still operating in Moscow. However, she wasn't allowed to enter the capital without a special permit. So, in 1943 she made the decision to sneak into Moscow under cover.

Her efforts were worthwhile. On the April 1, 1943, Maya Plisteskaya was accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre. Her talent was noticed early on: she had a surprisingly wide step, a high jump and impressive acting skills, all of which quickly earned her an outstanding reputation. By the end of the year, she’d risen from a corps de ballet girl to the lead role in the theatre's production of The Nutcracker.

What followed was a swift ascent to widely accepted success. She took the lead role in Swan Lake, adapting Anna Pavlova's miniature The Dying Swan and reinterpreting it. The fluidity of her arms and heartbreaking representation of strife and death remain unmatched in the ballet world to this day.

During an outdoor performance of The Dying Swan in 1971, a storm broke out, but the audience forgot to open their umbrellas as they were so taken by the performance! Among them was Pierre Cardin. At the end of the show, the ballerina and the designer were formally introduced. Following their meeting, Cardin happily created Plisetskaya's dance costumes and evening wear. ...

The Dying Swan, with encore! - Maya Plisetskaya, 1976