Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Poets
ISBN:
Pages: 280
Publication Date: October 24, 2017

Earthly SignsMoscow Diaries, 1917-1922

by Marina Tsvetaeva, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell

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Marina Tsvetaeva ranks with Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, and Boris Pasternak as one of Russia’s greatest twentieth-century poets. Her suicide at the age of forty-eight was the tragic culmination of a life beset by loss and hardship. This volume presents in English a collection of essays published in the Russian émigré press after Tsvetaeva left Moscow in 1922. Based on diaries she kept from 1917 to 1920, the work describes the broad social, economic, and cultural chaos provoked by the Bolshevik Revolution. Events and individuals are seen through the lens of her personal experience—that of a destitute young woman of upper-class background with two small children (one of whom died of starvation), a missing husband, and no means of support other than her poetry. These autobiographical writings are an eyewitness account of a dramatic period in Russian history, told by a gifted and outspoken poet.

Praise

Is there prose more intimate, more piercing, more heroic, more astonishing than Tsvetaeva’s? Was the truth of reckless feelings ever so naked? So accelerated? Voicing gut and brow, she is incomparable. Clad in the veil of translation, expert translation, her recklessness commands, her nakedness flames.
—Susan Sontag

When it comes to the Russian poetry of the last century, Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, and Boris Pasternak are reasonably familiar names, but not Marina Tsvetaeva, who is their equal.... Is she as good as Eliot or Pound, one may ask for the sake of comparison. She is as good as they are, and may have more tricks up her sleeve as a poet.... A marvelous selection from her diaries and essays in an exceptionally fine translation by Jamey Gambrell. They give us a view of the times not very different from that found in Isaac Babel’s stories. Tsvetaeva is an excellent reporter.... Tsvetaeva’s autobiographical writings and her essays are filled with memorable descriptions and beautifully turned out phases.... Gambrell sums up well the difficulties of Tsvetaeva’s work in her concise and extremely perceptive introduction.
—Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books

This style of bold, passionate and innovative thought is much in evidence in Earthly Signs, writings by the Russian Modernist poet Marina Tsvetaeva, in this extraordinary translation by Jamey Gambrell.
—Carol Muske Dukes, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Jamey Gambrell’s excellently translated edition with its well-researched and informative introduction graciously fulfils Tsvetaeva’s desire to see these pieces of diaristic prose bound in a single volume.
—Rachel Polonsky, The Times Literary Supplement