The Marsh of Gold: Pasternak's Writings on Inspiration and Creation

The Marsh of Gold: Pasternak's Writings on Inspiration and Creation

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Angela Livingstone

Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures, and History
ISBN: 9781934843239 (hardcover) / 9781936235070 (paper)
Pages: 330 pp.
Publication Date: September 2008

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Major statements by the celebrated Russian poet Boris Pasternak (1890–1960) about poetry, inspiration, the creative process, and the significance of artistic/literary creativity in his own life as well as in human life altogether, are presented here in his own words (in translation) and are discussed in the extensive commentaries and introduction. The texts range from 1910 to 1946 and are between two and ninety pages long. There are commentaries on all the texts, as well as a final essay on Pasternak’s famous novel Doctor Zhivago which is examined here in the light of what it says about art and inspiration. Although universally acknowledged as one of the great writers of the twentieth century, Pasternak is not yet sufficiently recognized as the highly original and important thinker that he also was. All his life he thought and wrote about the nature and significance of the experience of inspiration, though avoiding the word “inspiration” where possible as his own views were not the conventional ones. The author’s purpose is (a) to make this philosophical aspect of Pasternak's work better known, and (b) to communicate to readers who cannot read Russian the pleasure and interest of an “inspired” life as Pasternak experienced it.


Angela Livingstone (PhD Cambridge University) published one book on German literature (Lou Andreas-Salome, Her Life and Writings), after which she went on to focus on Russian literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As a researcher, she has specialized mainly in the work of Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Andrei Platonov. For more than thirty years, she taught in the department of literature at the University of Essex, Colchester, UK—with which, though now retired, she is still closely affiliated, holding the title of research professor.


Praise

Lucid and full commentaries are interspersed between the pieces, making this an indispensable volume for any student of Pasternak or early twentieth-century Russia.
— Sasha Dugdale, Times Literary Supplement (May 8, 2009)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Note on transliteration and dates
Abbreviations
A brief chronology
Note on Pasternak’s connections with literary groups

Introduction

I: EARLY PROSE (1910–1919)

Some Propositions
[Reliquimini]
Ordering a Drama
Heinrich von Kleist. On Asceticism in Culture
[On the Threshold of Inspiration]
Symbolism and Immortality [Synopsis of a lecture]
[End of a Decade]
The Black Goblet
Letters from Tula

Commentary on I (EARLY PROSE)

II: A SAFE-CONDUCT or “THE PRESERVATION CERTIFICATE” (1928–1931)

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Commentary on II (A SAFE-CONDUCT, OR THE PRESERVATION CERTIFICATE)

III: FIFTEEN POEMS (1912–1931)

February
Spring
Marburg
About These Verses
Definition of Poetry
Definition of Creation
Let’s drop words
Inspiration
Here’s the Beginning
Slanted pictures
Poetry
To Anna Akhmatova
To Marina Tsvetaeva
Lovely woman
Again Chopin

Commentary on III (FIFTEEN POEMS)

IV: SPEECHES AND ARTICLES, 1930s and 1940s

Speech at the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers (1934)
Speech at the International Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture (1935)
Speech at the Third Plenum of the Board of the Union of Soviet Writers (1936)
On Shakespeare
A New Collection of Work by Anna Akhmatova
Selected Works by Anna Akhmatova
Notes of a Translator
Paul-Marie Verlaine
Chopin
Remarks on Translations from Shakespeare

Commentary on IV (SPEECHES AND ARTICLES, 1930s and ‘40s)

V: An Essay on Pasternak’s Novel DOCTOR ZHIVAGO

1. “A novel in prose”
2. Writing poetry
3. A merging of concepts
4. “ . . . some moving entireness”

Notes
Selective bibliography
Index