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George Ivask papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 93
Scope and Contents
The George Ivask Papers consist of two boxes of correspondence, articles, poetry, photographs, and miscellaneous papers.

The Correspondence (Box 1) contains about 525 incoming letters written by thirty-one correspondent between 1928 and 1963. They are arranged alphabetically by author and then chronologically. Most letters are in Russian, with only a handful in English or German. The third party correspondence, folder 36, contains four letters from Marina TSvetaeva to Anatolii Shteiger, transcribed by Cyril Ielita-Wilczkowski. Ivask published fourteen (numbered I-XIV) other TSvetaeva letters in volumes 5, 7, and 8 of Opyty (Experiments). The letters present in the Beinecke collection, numbered XV-XVI and XVIII-XIX and dated 3-9 September 1936, did not appear, because Opyty ceased publication. Folder 37 contains a letter from Vladimir Vasil'evich Veidle to the editor of the Novoe russkoe slovo concerning misleading information in the review of the seventh volume of Opyty. Folder 38 contains a letter to Karl Karlovich Gershel'man by an unidentified author.

Incoming correspondence begins with nine folders of miscellaneous correspondence. Nikolai Berdiaev, for example, reflects on religion. Petr Mikhailovich Bitsilli, who reviewed Ivask's Severnyi bereg (Northern Shore), discusses philosophical, religious, and literary topics. Lidiia Chervinskaia cannot make up her mind about which poems Ivask should publish in his anthology. The letters of IUrii Gal' contain poems and describe feelings of personal mortality. Ivask always sympathized with those who suffered, were ignored, or had been rejected by certain émigré circles. In the case of Gal', whom he knew from Estonia since 1943, he not only printed seven poems in the anthology Na zapade, but also published (in Opyty 1955: 87-103) excerpts from five letters (December 3, 1944-January 12, 1945), which are found in this collection. The collection also contains one letter by George Vladimirovich Golokhvastov, one by Ol'ga Nikolaevna Mozhaiskaia, and two by Vera Roslavleva, who writes about her sons and the difficulties which the Gershel'man family endures. Alla Sergeevna Golovina, sister of Anatolii Shteiger, discusses Ivask's anthology, Opyty (Experiments), and literary matters. Nikolai Tatishchev informs Ivask about his publications.

The bulk of the letters in the collection, written by prominent Russian émigré literary figures, mostly concern the preparation and publication of the anthology Na zapade and of Opyty.

Ivan Alekseevich Bunin, whom Ivask asked to contribute to his anthology, was old and sick, with changing moods and changing decisions about what and how it should be published. Finally, he sent to Ivask eight poems with the warning that if they were unacceptable, he, "prostite" (pardon me), will not even answer. Bunin died the next year. The seventy-eight letters of Karl Karlovich Gershel'man (called "Kalia") portray the sad subsistence of an emigrant family, his efforts to get ahead hampered by poor health (asthma) and stays in hospitals. He writes: "IA Bogu sdelal vse chto mog', teper' pust' Bog so mnoi sdelaet chto emu ugodno" (I did for God everything I could, now let God to do with me what he wants). The end came soon, from a ruptured appendix. The letters of his wife Elizaveta B. are filled with problems and the sad awareness that nobody shows interest in the creative writings of her deceased husband. Ivask published four of his poems in his anthology Na zapade in 1953.

The next correspondent, Cyril Ielita-Wilczkowski, transcribed and edited the Marina TSvetaeva's letters to Shteiger which Ivask published in Opyty. He likes Ivask's poems and talks about them hyperbolically. He dislikes the poems of Adamovich and Terapiano, and uses such strong expressions as "merzost'" (abomination). His last letter is dated March 30, 1959, one year before his death.

The collection also includes sixteen letters from the poet of the "old" generation, Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov, and nineteen letters of his wife Irina Vladimirovna Odoevtseva, herself a poet. While Ivanov and Odoevtseva sent the poems to Ivask for publication, Ivask on the other hand, by sending his poems to them, was looking only for their opinion. Sick and weary, Ivanov comments: "Bezposhchadno unichtozhaiu priblizitel'no 2/3 togo chto sochiniaiu" (I am unmercifully destroying around two thirds of what I am writing). In her letters, Odoevtseva complains that nobody helped her while her husband was dying or after his death.

There are thirty-five letters by Mikhail L'vovich Kantor, written between 1954 and 1960; the collaboration in Opyty is mentioned. Michael Karpovich, represented by fourteen letters, arranged Ivask's first teaching position at Harvard and was on his doctoral thesis defense committee. The letters of Sergei Konstantinovich Makovskii concern his life, work, and literary activity. They contain constant complaints about his health: in his last letter to Ivask, he says that he does all his writing in bed. The next year he died. Six letters (1938-61) of Viktor Andreevich Mamchenko (as Ivask calls him, "a simple sailor") also complain about problems and poor health. Thinking that he is near the end, he remarks that dying is also "a creative work." Ivask published six of his poems in the anthology.

Ivask also corresponded with Vladimir Nabokov, but his wife Vera Evseevna answered many letters in English. She explains: "He has come to the conclusion that he must sacrifice correspondence to literary work." The correspondence terminates with the failure of Opyty. Another writer who complained about his health and financial situation was IUrii Odarchenko, a poet who sometimes "decorated" letters with drawings. Ivask, who liked his poems, published eight in his anthology and asked for more for Opyty. Also included in the collection are ten letters from Nikolai Otsup, an editor of Chisla (Numbers). He contributed eight poems to Ivask's anthology. He writes about his Dnevnik v stikhakh (Diary in Verses), published in 1950 and later reviewed by Ivask, and about his literary activity in general. Shortly before his death, in his last letter, he mentions his new book Tri tsaria [1958] (Three Kings).

Only ten letters of Boris IUlianovich Poplavskii are found in the collection. Four typed manuscript fragments from his novel Apollon Bezobrazov are also present. Ten of his poems appeared in the anthology. In his Pokhvala rossiikoi poezii (published in Novyi zhurnal 162, March 1986: 122), Ivask writes about Poplavskii: "Poplavskii proletel nad russkim Parizhem meteorom i kakoi to ognennyi sled ot nego ostalsia - ne tol'ko v stikhakh, no v 'tvorimoi legende' o nem, a takzhe v romane 'Apollon Bezobrazov'". (Like a meteor Poplavskii shot over Russian Paris, and some fiery trace remained after him--not only in verses, but in the legend which formed around him, and also in the novel "Apollon Bezobrazov.")

Poplavskii himself, in one of his letters, writes a strange remark: "Vse vremia borius' s kakimto strakhom." (At all times, I am fighting some kind of fear.) Poplavskii died in Paris on October 9, 1985, not by suicide, as Ivask suspected, but by homicide.

The collection includes thirty-five letters by Aleksei Remizov. Five of those also appear as typed transcripts, with explanatory notes by Roger Hagglund, written in 1962. Remizov writes about literary activities. In the early fifties, he was going blind. He writes about it to Ivask: "Deviatyi god zhivu v zatvore, na liudi ne vykhozhu: plokho vizhu . . . mne 74 goda." (For the ninth year I live in seclusion, without going out amidst people: I don't see well . . . I am 74 years old.) His handwriting worsens. His last letter is dated March 10, 1957.

Anatolii Shteiger is represented by fifteen letters, which include poems. Shteiger constantly travelled, first for pleasure, later on from hospital to hospital. Although not a politician, Shteiger nevertheless follows events and makes comments, especially upon the "barbarians" of Moscow and Berlin. He also discusses literary topics and writes about his everyday life. Shteiger died from tuberculosis in 1944.

The letters from Fedor Avgustovich Stepun cover the years 1955-58. Several letters not only contain Ivask's commentaries written in pencil, but also his immediate reactions to Stepun's writings. The two folders of Vladimir Vasil'evich Veidle contain thirty-eight letters. The correspondence started in 1953, when Veidle was living in Munich as director of programming at Radio Free Europe. It lasted almost to the end of Veidle's service. He describes his life, travels, writings, and works of others. He complains about the lack of time and his "boring" job, and always promises to write "something." He goes to Bruges, to the College of Europe, and travels again. He plans to go to the United States. The letters from Boris Konstantinovich Zaitsev are also concerned with writings. Zaitsev offers to Ivask three fragments of his translation of Dante, and also promises to write something. The last thirteen letters are from Vladimir Zlobin. He was the secretary of Z. N. Gippius, and, after her death in 1945, the executor of her will (and of her husband, D. S. Merezhkovskii). Zlobin's letters speak for themselves and for other authors, who are in the similar situation. They half-open the curtain to the backstage of the publishing world and the experiences of authors and editors--their frustration, hope, anxiety in not receiving payments, and their patience. Zlobin praises Ivask for knowing how to read poems and for understanding their creators. Commenting on Ivask's book TSarskaia osen' (Royal autumn) he says he likes it, but he does not always understand the poems until the end. Ivask published six of Zlobin's poems in the anthology.

The second box contains Writings (folders 39-73), Photographs (folders 74-78), and Miscellaneous Papers (folder 79).

The Writings are divided into Articles (folders 39-58) and Poetry (folders 59-73), all written in Russian. The seventeen articles are written by seven authors. The poetry section contains seventy-nine poems by fourteen well-known Russian émigré poets and writers.

Folders 74-78 contain six photographs: one of Marina TSvetaeva, one of her nine-year-old son Georgii Efron (who was born on February 1, 1925 in Czechoslovakia, returned with his mother to the Soviet Union, and was killed, shortly after being drafted into the Soviet army in July 1944 near the village Druika, now in Byelorussian SSR); one of Nikolai Pavlovich Gronskii, killed in an accident; two pictures of Aleksei Mikhailovich Remizov, alone and with friends; and one of Anatolii Sergeevich Shteiger.

The Miscellaneous Papers (folder 79) contain I. A. Bunin's autograph dedication to Ivask, written on a ripped off front flyleaf from his book Izbrannye stikhi (Selected Poems); two leaves of schedules of Russian language classes at Harvard University, including Ivask's, prepared by M. H. Karpovich, probably for 1952-53; some excerpts from reviews of Bunin's Izbrannye stikhi (Selected poems) prepared by Izdatel'stvo "Sovremennyia zapiski"; a literary necrology of Aleksei Mikhailovich Remizov, and some samples of his writings; two pages from a summary of the works of Prince P. A. Wiazemski written by himself and attested by S. Makowski; five clippings; and one envelope.
Language of Materials
Most of the letters and manuscripts are in Russian, with only a handful in English or German.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The George Ivask Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of George Ivask, 1964.
1913 - 1963
Majority of material found within 1940 - 1960
1 Linear Feet (2 boxes)
Related Names
Ivask, I︠U︡riĭ
Language of Materials
Language of Materials
Language of Materials