"Still, we have the same solitude, the same journeys and searching, and the same favorite turns in the labyrinth of literature and history."―Boris Pasternak to Marina TsvetaevaOne of the most compelling episodes of twentieth-century Russian literature involves the epistolary romance that blossomed between the modernist poets Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak in the 1920s. Only weeks after Tsvetaeva emigrated from Russia in 1922, Pasternak discovered her poetry and sent her a letter of praise and admiration. Tsvetaeva's enthusiastic response began a decade-long affair, conducted entirely through letters. This correspondence-written across the widening divide separating Soviet Russia from Russian émigrés in continental Europe-offers a view into the overlapping worlds of literary creativity, sexual identity, and political affiliation. Following both sides of their conversation, Catherine Ciepiela charts the poets' changing relations to each other, to the extraordinary political events of the period, and to literature itself. The Same Solitude presents the first full account of this affair of letters and poems from its beginning in the summer of 1922 to its denouement in the 1930s.Drawing on many previously untranslated letters and poems, Ciepiela describes the poets' mutual influence, both in the course of their lives and the development of their art. Neither poet saw any separation between a poet's life and work, and Ciepiela treats each poet's letters and poems as a single text. She discusses the poets' famous triangular correspondence with Rainer Maria Rilke in 1926, and she addresses the profound significance of Tsvetaeva for Pasternak, who is often perceived (mistakenly, Ciepiela asserts) as the more detached partner. Further, this book expands our understanding of poetic modernism by showing how the poets worked through ideas about gender and writing in the context of what they themselves called a literary "marriage."
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"Catherine Ciepiela's book offers the most detailed account in English of the complex relationship of two great twentieth-century Russian poets, Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak. It is remarkable for its very careful, illuminating, and nuanced analysis of their poetic philosophy and hermetic lyrical statements. The Same Solitude is an essential work for everyone interested in early twentieth century Russian literature. It places Ciepiela in the circle of the most authoritative specialists in Russian poetry."—Lazar Fleishman, Stanford University
"With its impeccable scholarship, theoretical acumen, and rich, resourceful close readings, Catherine Ciepiela's The Same Solitude marks a major contribution to the study of Russian modernist poetry and gender."—Clare Cavanagh, Herman and Beulah Pearce Miller Research Professor in Literature, Northwestern University
"Catherine Ciepiela's accomplished account of the correspondence between Tsvetaeva and Pasternak weaves together literary criticism, history, psychology, and gender studies. Firmly grounded in the Russian and Soviet poetic discourse of the 1920s and 1930s, full of controversial, thought-provoking insights, the narrative succeeds, above all, in bringing to life these two great poets, whose voices intertwine and draw apart in an immortal dance of words - letters, poems, arguments, confessions - performed across an ever-deepening gulf of families, politics, and time."—Olga Grushin
"With few exceptions, the true poetic impulse of Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva comes across in the prose of their letters, the outlet available to their passionate and mercurial imaginations in an era when a published poem exuding a hint of the wrong sentiment could condemn a poet to exile or death. In The Same Solitude, with a blend of what Pasternak called 'the almighty God of details'—poems, letters, and essays both by and about them—and a degree of insight that borders on the uncanny, Catherine Ciepiela gives us a chance to experience the shudder of recognition. "—Mark RudmanAbout the Author:
Catherine Ciepiela is Professor of Russian at Amherst College. She is the coeditor of At the Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems.
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