Georgy Ivanov | After Russia
Georgy Ivanov
Georgy Ivanov

In St. Petersburg, the already famous, accomplished, and light-hearted Georgy Ivanov was called Zhorzhik (a diminutive form of the French name Georges). He wrote poetry, got on well with Nikolai Gumilev and Osip Mandelstam, and had his work published. He was active in the Poets’ Guild and successful as a translator. His second wife was the student of the Guild Irina Odoevtseva, whose father was a wealthy Riga lawyer. Even before the revolution, Georgy Ivanov received a prophetic verdict:

Georgy Ivanov can write poetry. But he is unlikely to become a poet. Unless some major life catastrophe happens to him, some good shake-up, like a deep and real grief. In fact, that is the only thing we should wish him. (poet Vladislav Khodasevich)

And the grief struck — he was forced to emigrate. Having left on a business trip in 1922 to study the repertoire of theaters, Georgy Ivanov never returned. The exile was seemingly prosperous — he founded the Poets’ Guild in Paris; Ivanov presided over the influential meetings of the Green Lamp, run by writers Dmitry Merezhkovsky and Zinaida Gippius, and co-founded the now legendary magazine Numbers, where young émigré writers could finally publish. At the same time, he wrote poems like this one:

In the depths, at the bottom of the mind,

Like the bottom of a well — the very bottom —

A gleam of light that makes me blind

Sometimes flickers in me.

God! And I close my eyes

From the unbearable fire.

I fall into it...

And I realize

That everyone in the streetcar is staring

With fearful eyes upon me.

He still looked well off. His father-in-law supported their family financially, and there was even a lovely villa in Biarritz, something that no emigrant could have dreamed of. And yet he yearned for home, for his circle, for his language, his old surroundings:

Spring exultation, nightingales, the moon

on southern seas — they make my poor head spin

with boredom.

More than that. I disappear.

The real me lives elsewhere. Far to the North.

Berlin, poor Russian Paris, filthy Nice —

a dream from which I soon will find release.

Petersburg. Winter. Gumilyov and I

walk by an ice-bound Neva, bright with snow.

The river Lethe. Side by side, we walk

and talk as poets did, so long ago.

(Translated by Robert Chandler)

The first collection, made up entirely of émigré poems, Roses, was published in Paris in 1931. 

Before Roses, G. Ivanov was a fine craftsman, an exquisite lyricist who wrote “charming”, “enchanting” poems. With Roses, he became a poet. (critic Konstantin Mochulsky) 

With that book came the unspoken title — the first poet of emigration. Before that, critics could not choose between him and Vladislav Khodasevich. This title was accurately described by Roman Gul:

...sad and poor, but honorable and high status of the first poet of the Russian emigration.

The young poets of the unnoticed generation, led by the esteemed Georgy Adamovich, formed the Paris Tune and took their cue from Roses, called the best Russian poetry of the 1930s.

When the German army occupied Paris, Ivanov and Odoevtseva moved to their villa in Biarritz, but in 1943 it was requisitioned by the German command, and in 1944 the villa was destroyed during an air raid. They lost the library, archives, and manuscripts, as well as all the funds they had saved up for a rainy day. The rainy day actually came...

To be continued

Nogu Sveló!|Nogu Sveló!

The Ice March
<p>N<strong>o</strong>gu Svel<strong>ó</strong>!|N<strong>o</strong>gu Svel<strong>ó</strong>!</p><p><br></p>

I see these notices so frequently:

The comrades and the family

Extend their deepest sympathy...

«Today you and tomorrow me!»

We are dying one by one.

Some at dusk and some at dawn.

And on the cemetery plots

We are lying neatly in a row.

Hour after hour, day after day,

That’s the fate we choose.

To play with fire, to play with fire

Having chosen, we die out.

It is incredibly ridiculous:

There was a whole world — and there is none.

And suddenly — the ice march non-existent,

Captain Ivanov is gone,

Oh, not a thing at all!

We’re dying out all over cities.

The whole country’s dying out as well.

And, to be honest, just between us —

I don’t know where the Ice March, why, or when...

The game of fate. The game of good and evil.

The game of wits. Imagination game.

«One mirror must mirror another;

each mirror mismirrors the other.»

They tell me: «You’ve won the game!»

But all the same. Don’t want to play. 

Suppose I will not die a poet, 

Yet as a man I am dying.