THE BRITISH LIBRARY

European studies blog

10 posts from October 2016

31 October 2016

Shifting the Compass: Literature from the Dutch Antilles and Suriname

Five years ago, from 15-17 September 2011, The Dutch Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley organised a conference on Dutch literature overseas: ‘Colonial and Postcolonial Connections in Dutch Literature’. A selection of papers presented at this conference was published as Shifting the Compass: Pluricontinental connections in Dutch Colonial and Postcolonial Literature (Newcastle, 2013; British Library YC.2013.a.14249).

In his introduction to the volume Jeroen Dewulf, states that ‘Dutch literature is much more than just literature from a tiny piece of land at the estuary of the Rhine. From the Carribean to Southern Africa and from Southeast Asia to Western Europe, the Dutch language formed a common bond in a literature that has been deeply marked by intercontinental connections.’

Dutch authors like Couperus, ‘Multatuli’, Hella Haasse, Marion Bloem and Adriaan van Dis, to name but a few, all had close ties to the Dutch East Indies. Their novels about the region address the issues surrounding colonial rule and are firmly placed in the canon of Dutch literature. This is reflected in the Library’s collections. For example, we hold various editions of Multatuli’s Max Havelaar, considered to be one the finest novels in the whole of Dutch literature.

The same cannot be said of literature from the other side of the world, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao). With the exception of writers such as Frank Martinus Arion, Cola Debrot and Edgar Cairo only in Dutch, there is not the coverage of titles as the Dutch East Indies has. An author like Astrid Roemer, who this year received the P.C. Hooftprijs, the most prestigious literary award of the Netherlands, deserves every bit as much attention as Hella Haasse does.

Suriname 10480.g.7. 2
A colonial-era view of Suriname, from A. Halberstadt, Kolonisatie van Europeanen te Suriname: opheffing van het pauperisme, ontwikkeling van handel en industrie (Leyden, 1872) 10480.g.7. (via Flickr)

Earlier this year Frank Martinus Arion passed away, leaving a formidable corpus of novels, poetry, essays and critiques. Why is he not as famous as Van Dis?

There may be many reasons for this: bias towards the Dutch East Indies as somehow more important than the Dutch West-Indies, bias towards authors with a white Dutch background, who knows – curators are not perfect.

And yet, the 5-volume Een geschiedenis van de Surinaamse literatuur (A history of Suriname Literature) by Michiel van Kempen,  it is clear there are rich pickings to be had amongst the literature from Suriname and the same is true for the Antilles.

DutchAntills02
Michiel van Kempen, Een geschiedenis van de Surinaamse literatuur (Paramaribo, 2002) YF.2005.b.2372

I think it’s time to shift the compass and uncover the treasures of the literature from Suriname and the Dutch Antilles.

Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections 

28 October 2016

To Naples with Nietzsche and beyond: Malwida von Meysenbug (1816-1903).

When on 28 October 1816 another daughter was born into the large family of Ludwig Carl George Philipp Revalier, no-one could have predicted that she would grow up to be a revolutionary sympathizer. Her father, major-domo at the court of Wilhelm I of Hessen, was promoted by the latter’s son Wilhelm II in 1825 to the nobility as a mark of gratitude for his service as an adviser, and when young Malwida von Meysenbug grew up to write her autobiography Memoiren einer Idealisten (1869-76; the British Library holds the third edition of 1882 at shelfmark 12357.c.12), she recalled that she had taken great pride and pleasure in belonging to the aristocracy. Yet those memoirs were written in political exile in England, where she had fled after supporting the democratic cause in the revolutions of 1848, and where she acted as governess to the daughters of Alexander Herzen.

Malwida - Old age
Portrait of Malwida von Meysenbug in old age, from Emil Reicke, Malwida von Meysenbug: die Verfasserin der Memoiren einer Idealistin (Berlin, 1911) British Library 010705.ee.16.

In her memoirs, she devotes the longest chapter to the 1830 revolution, which made a profound impression on the 14-year-old girl. Although she affectionately describes her family as close and happy, there are hints that all was not idyllic; in the chapter dedicated to the 1848 revolution, she mentions the ‘tyranny of the family, which in this case still rests on the regrettable principle that the woman should not think for herself but remain in the place to which fate has assigned her, no matter whether her individuality is submerged or not’.

As her interest in politics became more marked, she became increasingly estranged from her relatives. In this her relationship with the theological student and revolutionary thinker Theodor Althaus was a major factor in influencing her to question her father’s political stance and develop her own ideas. Much as she admired her father’s efforts to draft what she described as ‘the most liberal of all German constitutions’, it did not go far enough for her. He died in Frankfurt late in 1847; this placed Malwida in an ideal location to witness the preliminary planning for a pan-German Parliament in the spring of 1848, but she was bitterly disappointed to find that only men were admitted for lack of space, and had to observe the proceedings from a window.

Malwida - Theodor Althaus

 Malwida’s portrait of Theodor Althaus, reproduced in Mildred Adams’s English edition of Malwida’s memoirs, Rebel in a Crinoline (London, 1937). 010709.h.2.

1847 had also seen the end of her relationship with Althaus, who broke it off as he did not reciprocate her feelings. A strong-minded woman whose portraits show an equally determined and formidable physique, she had no further romantic attachments, though her lively intellect and independent cast of thought equipped her to become the friend of several of the most outstanding men of the age, including Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche.

With her family’s reluctant consent she made a journey to Ostend in 1849 of which she wrote an account, Eine Reise nach Ostende (Berlin, 1905; 010107.g.11). Far from being a conventional travel narrative, it presents evidence of her political convictions, reflected in her remarks on memorials to those who fell in the struggle to free the Netherlands from Spanish domination and her strong identification with the common people.

In 1852 she was forced to flee to London as a result of those same principles, and made contact with her fellow political exiles Gottfried and Johanna Kinkel. Refusing to accept support from her family, she took a situation as governess to the two motherless daughters of Alexander Herzen. She became especially attached to the younger girl, Olga, and in 1861, at Herzen’s request, she assumed permanent charge of her. She provided stability and consistency for her small charges amid the chaotic domestic life described by Herzen’s friend Nikolai Ogarev in his sketch Bedlam, or A Day of our Life (1857-58), reproduced in E. H. Carr’s The Romantic Exiles (London, 1933; 010795.i.84). The liaison between Herzen and Ogarev’s wife Natalia created a febrile and tense milieu in which Malwida’s tact and firm principles were sorely needed, and she became a second mother to Olga, who in 1873 married Gabriel Monod, the French historian who edited and published several of her works.

Malwida and Olga

 Malwida and her foster-daughter Olga Herzen (later Monod), reproduced in Rebel in a Crinoline

It was in 1854/55 that she first met Richard Wagner, initiating a friendship which lasted for many years and is frequently mentioned in Cosima Wagner’s diaries. She was present at the disastrous Paris performances of his Tannhäuser, and left an account in the Memoiren of the whoops and whistles with which the notorious Jockey Club ruined the evening. ‘So this,’ she shouted, ever the governess, ‘is the public that claims to set the standards of taste for the whole world! A rabble of street urchins, without even manners enough to let people who differ from them listen in peace and quiet!’ After the debacle of the third performance she described visiting Wagner at two a.m. and finding him outwardly composed but trembling with suppressed emotion before writing to withdraw the opera from performance.

It was though the Wagner connection that she met Nietzsche in 1872 at Bayreuth, when the ceremony took place at which the foundation stone of the Festspielhaus was laid. Their shared love of Italy led her to invite him and Paul Rée  to the Bay of Naples in 1876 for a stay at Sorrento, where Nietzsche began his Menschliches, Allzumenschliches and Rée his Origin of the Moral Sensations (1877).

Malwida Salon
Malwida’s salon in Rome, with a bust of Wagner in the corner. Reproduced in Rebel in a Crinoline

Malwida had settled permanently in Rome in 1877, and received Romain Rolland, among other distinguished guests, in her home there. She died in Rome in 23 April 1903, aged 86 – the first woman ever to be nominated (by Monod in 1901) for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and an inspiration to all her female compatriots who fought against the suffocating conservatism of Wilhelmine Germany.

Susan Halstead, Content Specialist, Humanities and Social Sciences, Research Engagement.

26 October 2016

Studying migration and diaspora through Russian language publishing

Dear Sir,
I take the liberty of sending you our catalogue of Russian books and pamphlets forbidden by the Russian censorship. Should you wish to order anything from us for the Russian department of the British Museum Library, we could give a discount of 10 per cent on all prices. We have also some new works of Leo Tolstoy, also forbidden in Russia.

This letter was registered in the British Museum as incoming post on 10 October 1892. It was written on Russian Free Press Fund headed paper and signed by one J. Kelchevsky, the pseudonym of a Polish revolutionary and bibliophile, Wilfrid Voynich, probably now better known not for his revolutionary activities, but for the famous mysterious manuscript formerly in his possession. The Keeper of the Department of Printed Books, Richard Garnett, replied expressing interest, and so “some orders [were] given”. These books, periodicals and brochures, mostly published outside the Russian Imperial borders, contributed to the British Library’s now considerable collection of Russian émigré and Diaspora publications.

Publicatrions-1

Publications-2
A selection of uncensored brochures published by the Russians abroad

The output of printing activities by the first wave of Russian post-revolutionary émigrés is also well represented in the collections, from rare book art items and newspapers, such as, Novaia Rossiia (‘New Russia’), started in 1936 by Alexander Kerensky, a key political figure in the Russian Revolution of 1917, to popular periodicals.

Zvorykin's Boris Godunov
Title-page of an an art book edition of Pushkin’s drama Boris Godunov, with plates by Plates by Boris Zvorykin, published in Paris. RB.23.b.5893

Kerensky's Novaia Rossiia
 Kerensky’s periodical Novaia Rossiia; NEWS 15932

Zaria Kharbina
An advertisement in Russian from Zaria Kharbina (‘The Dawn of Harbin’), a popular newspaper published by the Russian community in China (PP.7611.ccd)

In the 1980s and 1990s the British Library continued building its collection of Russian émigré publications from various sources, including donations, and several commercial vendors, one of whom – André Savine – was a dedicated bibliophile who created a personal database of Russian publications abroad.

We actively continue collecting material produced by Russians abroad.

New batch

 New Russian books just arrived from North America.

Whether uncensored or banned by political regimes in Russia and the Soviet Union, or produced for the local Russian language community by various Russian language publishing enterprises aboard, the British Library’s collections of such material have never formed a discrete unit. The materials were not acquired at any single point in time and they have no name that one can refer to (such as ‘free Russian press, ‘Russian underground collection’, etc.). The materials are not stored together in one place but scattered among the Library’s general collections. Moreover, since the material was not always easy for cataloguers to deal with, it is sometimes not obvious under what headings to look for relevant items in the catalogue. Research into these collections can bring to life many interesting stories, change our understanding of the mechanisms of publishing (including new media and digital formats) in the diaspora and by local communities, and help in formulating new challenges in the world of digital media.

Collaboration is important for us. We have invited academics at UK universities to submit proposals for AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships with the Library. One of the topics this year is ‘Studying migration and diaspora through Russian language publishing’, a project which will help to meet some of the challenges described above. Please visit our website for more information and application form or contact details


Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator of East European Collections

24 October 2016

Trotsky, Sri Lanka and an ‘Olympian goddess’

What links Trotsky, Sri Lanka and a young Bolshevik woman journalist? The answer lies in a 20-page book published in Maradana, Sri Lanka, in 1948.

Svyashk cover 9458.b.10

 Larisa Reiner, Svyazhsk: An Epic of the Russian Civil War – 1918 (Maradana, 1948) British Library 9458.b.10

Entitled Svyazhsk: An Epic of the Russian Civil War – 1918, the book contains the only known English-language translation of a civil war-era work by Larisa Reisner, a journalist and writer who reported on the Russian Civil Wars while simultaneously serving as a political commissar in the Red Army.

Image 1 Larisa_Rejsner

 Portrait of Larisa Reisner (From Wikimedia Commons

Svyazhsk tells the story of the Red Army’s successful campaign in the town of the same name – 490 miles southeast of Moscow on the Volga River – to recapture the nearby city of Kazan from anti-Bolshevik forces in August/September 1918. Reisner, who participated in the events as part of the Fifth Army, describes how Trotsky was sent to organise the campaign:

No matter what his calling or his name, it is clear that this creator of the Red Army, the future chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, would have had to be in Svyazhsk; had to live through the entire practical experience if these weeks of battle; had to call upon all the resources of his will and organisational genius for the defence of Svyazhsk, for the defence of the army organism smashed under the fire of the whites.

A version of Svyazhsk was first published in Russian in 1923, in the Soviet historical journal Proletarskaia revoliutsiia (‘Proletarian revolution’; Mic.C.1326). The following year, a slightly longer version was published in Front, an edited collection of Reisner’s articles from the frontline. Almost a decade later, in 1943, an English-language translation of the Front piece – by John G. Wright, a leader of the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) who became well-known as a translator of many of Trotsky’s works into English, and the lesser known Amy Jensen – appeared in the SWP’s journal Fourth International (Mic.B.617/1,2). While remaining faithful to Reisner’s text, Wright and Jensen added headings – such as ‘The Arrival of Trotsky’s Train’ – to signpost various stages of the campaign. It is this translation which was published in book form in Sri Lanka in 1948. Four years later, in 1952, the book was deposited in the British Museum Library.

Image 2 Trotsky lion

 Bolshevik propaganda painting showing Trotsky, depicted as a lion, destroying the counter revolution. This is the original of the image shown in grainy black-and white on the front over of the LSSP edition of Svyazhsk. Image from: http://foto-history.livejournal.com/9467159.html

As detailed on its front cover (along with a striking pro-Trotsky propaganda image), the book is dedicated to the memory of Trotsky, who was assassinated in August 1940. It was published by the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) – a Trotskyist party founded in Sri Lanka in 1935. Several works by, or relating to, Trotsky were published by the LSSP, making Sri Lanka one of the main places to publish Trotskyist works at a time when they were banned in the Soviet Union. As noted by the editors of the LSSP edition of Svyazhsk, Reisner’s civil war sketches were also forbidden in the Soviet Union during this period ‘for their unforgettable portraits of the civil war leaders murdered by Stalin.’ The chapter Svyazhsk was removed from later editions of Front – even those published as late as 1980 (X.950/14395).

4th international logo

 The logo of the Fourth International as printed on the inside-back cover of the LSSP edition of Svyazhsk

Reisner undoubtedly provides a celebratory account of Trotsky’s role in the Svyazhsk campaign, but her piece was also chosen by the LSSP as a memorial publication for another reason. Trotsky and Reisner were close acquaintances, writing informally to each other in the decade after the October Revolution. The feeling of admiration was clearly mutual. In Trotsky’s autobiography My Life, published a few years after Reisner’s untimely death at the age of 31 in 1926, he described her as an ‘Olympian goddess’ who ‘combined a subtle and ironical mind and the courage of a warrior.’

Katie McElvanney, British Library – QMUL Collaborative PhD student

References

Larisa Reisner, Izbrannoe (Moscow, 1980). X.950/14395.

Larisa Reisner, Sobranie sochinenii (Moscow, 1928). 12593.l.24.

Trotsky, Leon, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (Harmondsworth, 1979). X.708/22026.

 

20 October 2016

In the service of the children of Serbia 1915-1947

In 1995 a tiny book of great significance for Anglo-Serbian relations was donated to the British Library. It is a brief account of the life of Florence Maw and a record of her years in Serbia and Yugoslavia from 1915 to 1953. The book was privately printed in London in 1957 and only three copies are recorded in British public collections.

Maw

 Florence Brereton Maw (1876-1953); front cover of Una P. Moffet, Lena A. Yovitchitch, Florence Maw: the chronicle of her lifework in Serbia. (London, 1957). British Library YA.1995.a.26004.

Maw was one among the hundreds of British women who volunteered their services for Serbian people in the First World War. She was a native of Cheshire, from a Quaker family, and during the war served as a member of the London-based Serbian Relief Fund, a charity formed in 1914 to provide humanitarian aid to Serbia.

This biography also sketches a portrait of Jean Rankin, Maw’s lifelong friend and collaborator, who was among the first to go to war-torn Serbia, whose people were in dire need of help. Rankin served as a trained nurse in the Serbian Relief Fund’s first hospital in Skopje in 1914, while Maw served as an orderly in the Fund’s third hospital in Kragujevac in 1915. They assisted soldiers and civilians affected by war and lived through the great typhus epidemic  Maw took part in the gruelling retreat of Serbia in 1915.

Although only a short biography drawing on a few surviving personal records, the book provides an insightful account of the work of the Serbian Relief Fund. Thanks to the generosity of the British people the Fund organised six hospitals for Serbia, looked after 65,000 Serbian prisoners of war, and supported the education of over 300 Serbian children in Britain, among other humanitarian efforts.

After the liberation of Serbia in 1918, the Serbian Relief Fund played a prominent role in bringing relief to the devastated country. Serbia lost over 22% of her pre-war population and up to 250,000 Serbian children were orphaned by the end of the First World War. In the aftermath of the war the Fund worked with the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to establish modern medical and social institutions primarily for the care of children, disabled war veterans and the sick people.

Funds raised by British children for Serbian orphans during the war were used for the creation and upkeep of an orphanage in the town of Niš in Serbia. In 1919 Maw was put in charge of this orphanage which, in the absence of any suitable housing, was accommodated in a dilapidated former poorhouse.

Maw Serbian orphans (1)Serbian orphans in countryside.  The Home’s annual summer camp was set up in the hamlet of Manastir in Sićevo, 20 kilometres east of Niš. From Florence Maw. 

As the work of the Serbian Relief Fund was ending in 1921, the Committee decided to invest the remaining funds in a purpose-built modern orphanage in Niš. Construction began in 1924 in the grounds of the St. Pantaleon Church, between the village of the same name and the Nišava River, two kilometres from the town centre. Maw closely supervised the building of the orphanage designed by Iulian Diupon, a Russian émigré architect.

Maw OrphangeThe Anglo-Serbian Children’s Home (Englesko-srpski dečiji dom), with British, Serbian and Yugoslav national flags flying. (From Florence Maw).

The Anglo-Serbian Children’s Home was built to accommodate 50 children and about six staff. It had a large open space around it with a garden, an orchard, and a large playground. Its inauguration on 7 November 1926 was a local and national event in the presence of Prince Paul and Princess Olga, government and church officials, British envoys and guests, and Church of England delegates. The Serbian Relief Fund was represented by Mrs Carrington-Wilde, a former president of its subcommittee for the education of Serbian children in Britain, who came from England for the occasion. She continued to visit the Home every two years on behalf of the Serbian Relief Fund estate. The Home was mainly funded by a proportion of the interest earned from the Fund’s final investment, deposited for this purpose in 1921. Other income came from donations from the local authorities, charities and people of Niš.

Maw and Rankin were responsible for the children’s upbringing, with a focus on discipline, practical training and traditional moral values. Children were brought up in the Orthodox tradition and religious holidays were observed according to Serbian and British customs. The children were directed according to their potential or abilities to apprenticeships, the army, engineering, nursing, commerce, teaching, law or religion. Maw was known in Niš and at the Home as “Sister Mother” (сестра-мајка), a term of respect used in Serbia for British nurses in the First World War. She had great authority over the children but never mastered Serbian and addressed her protégés only in English as “my child”.

The book finishes with a chapter on her precarious life under German occupation and the struggle to keep the children safe in the vortex of the Second World War. The Gestapo had taken possession of the Home and by the time the children were allowed to return at the end of 1944 the Home and its estate had been plundered and damaged, and the country was under the control of Yugoslav Partisans.

After the Second World War the communist authorities sought to undermine the Home’s strong link with the Serbian Church and to impose their own ethos and values. These pressures ultimately led to Maw’s and Rankin’s resignations and the handover of the Home to the city of Niš in 1946.

Maw and Rankin decided to retire on modest state pensions to a little cottage in Dubrovnik. In 1951 they made a final visit to Britain before returning to Yugoslavia. Rankin died suddenly in 1952 and only a few months later Maw passed away. Two of Maw’s devoted war orphans were beside her until the end.

Maw Retirement

 The cottage in Dubrovnik where Maw and Rankin lived in retirement from 1947 to 1953 (From Florence Maw).

In 1954 on the initiative of a former member of the staff of the Home, the Serbian Church had a marble plaque made with the following inscription: “To the Glory of God and in memory of Florence Maw and Jean Rankin who devoted their lives to the service of the children of Serbia, 1915-1947.”

Maw Anglo_Serbian Children_s Home 1926-1946

The Home today is a listed building widely known as “The English Home” (Енглески дом). Since 1965 it has been a hall of residence for High School Students. Photograph © Bratislav Arsić, 2016.

In 1953 the British authorities transferred the ownership of the Home to the Yugoslav authorities on two conditions: to serve its original purpose as a home for children, and to set up a Serbian Relief Fund commemorative plaque on a wall of the Home.

Maw Carrington Wilde

A 1938 bust by the sculptor Slavko Miletić of Mrs Carrington Wilde in front of the Home.The Serbian inscription reads “A great friend of the Serbian people.” The bust was removed from the courtyard in 1948 but reinstated in 2004.
Photograph © Bratislav Arsić, 2016.

The Anglo-Serbian Children’s Home is a lasting memorial to the work of the Serbian Relief Fund. It represents the outstanding achievement of a band of truly exceptional people who made a difference in the First World War. Its archives were destroyed in the Second World War, but we can assume that several hundred orphaned children were brought up by this institution from 1919 to 1946.

The Home will celebrate its 90th anniversary on the present site on 7 November 2016.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator Southeast European Collections

Further reading:

Francesca M. Wilson, Portraits and Sketches of Serbia. (London, 1920). 012350.f.15.

Simon Milčić. Engleski dom, kuća nade i ljubavi : svim domcima ma gde bili. (Niš, 2009).

Aleksandar Rastović, Marija Ranđelović. English-Serbian Children’s Home: 1926-2011. (Niš, 2014).

 

 

17 October 2016

The Seagull has landed: 120 years of Chekhov’s ‘comedy’

Audiences who enjoyed the recent ‘Young Chekhov’ season of early plays which transferred to London from the Chichester Festival Theatre might be surprised to learn that the work with which it culminated, The Seagull – now generally regarded as the first of Chekhov’s four great mature dramas – was anything but a success when first performed.

17 October marks the 120th anniversary of the play’s première in 1896 at the Alexandrinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. It is a work which provides more opportunities than most for things to go wrong (a lamp catching fire and a pistol failing to go off in an open-air production in which the present writer took part), and on the first night life imitated art all too closely. As the audience began to boo and hiss, Vera Komissarzhevskaya, in the role of Nina, the aspiring young actress, became so nervous that she completely lost her voice. Chekhov disappeared backstage after the second act, and, although outwardly composed, was so discouraged that he seriously considered giving up playwriting.

Seagull Nina
Vera Komissarzhevskaya as Nina in The Seagull, from P.A. Markov, Vera Fedorovna Komissarzhevskaia (Moscow, 1950) British Library 10790.de.52

Nowadays The Seagull is recognized as a masterpiece in its subtle portrayal of the conflicts between youth and maturity, city sophistication and rural simplicity, and the literary values represented by the jaded urbane middle-aged Trigorin, a writer of short stories, and the eager young dramatist Konstantin, son of Trigorin’s mistress, the actress Arkadina. Konstantin’s experimental Symbolist play is greeted with the same bewilderment and mockery that The Seagull received at its first outing. In both cases the audience, failing to appreciate a drama which ran counter to their expectations, were loud in their condemnation; possibly those at the Alexandrinsky were disconcerted as a play advertised as a comedy revealed a succession of thwarted loves, hopes and ambitions and ended with a fatal pistol-shot. When Chekhov’s friend Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko assured him that later performances had been well received and urged him to let it be performed in Moscow, Chekhov initially believed that this was no more than a kindly attempt to reassure him. However, Nemirovich-Danchenko, a successful playwright, persuaded Konstantin Stanislavski  to put The Seagull on at the Moscow Art Theatre, and its opening night there, on 29 December 1898, became a landmark in Russian theatrical history.

Seagull Reading
Chekhov reading from The Seagull to actors from the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898. From S.D. Balukhatyi, Chaika v postanovke Moskovskogo Khudozhestvennogo Teatra (Moscow, 1938) X.908/6396

The British Library holds a translation of Stanislavski’s production score (1952; X5/6281) which demonstrates his psychological penetration of the text and skill in bringing even its most minute details to life. As Thomas Kilroy, who relocated the action to the west of Ireland in his adaptation The Seagull ‘after Chekhov’ (Oldcastle, 1981/93; YK.1994.a.1609) remarks in his introduction, ‘stars like to play minor characters in Chekhov, something which is not even true of Shakespeare’. Stanislavski gave precise directions to his company about such apparently insignificant points as a character’s way of laughing or taking snuff, and his attention to these was triumphantly rewarded. At Chekhov's suggestion he took over the role of Trigorin, playing opposite Olga Knipper, Chekhov’s future wife, in that of Arkadina. This time the play received universal acclaim from critics and public, with members of the audience so transfigured by the experience that one observer described them as ‘looking as if it were their birthday’.

From then on The Seagull never looked back. It was widely translated, with one of the earliest versions being an edition of Chekhov’s plays in Yiddish (New York, 1911; 17107.a.6) where it appeared as Der ṿaser-foygel. Elsewhere it took to the air as Måken in Norway, Die Möwe in Germany, and La mouette in Marguerite Duras’s French version (Paris, 1985; YA.1987.a.4430). The first British production was mounted at the Royalty Theatre, Glasgow on 2 November 1909, in a translation by its director George Calderon.

Seagull Glasgow cast list
Cast list of the first British production of The Seagull, from Two plays by Tchekof, translated by George Calderon (London, 1912) 11758.cc.1.

The play also inspired a ballet score by Rodion Shchedrin (Moscow, 1982; f.541.aa) and an opera by Thomas Pasatieri with an English libretto by Kenward Elmslie (King of Prussia, PA, 2005; MUSIC H06/.10701), as well as numerous film versions, re-workings and adaptations by Tennessee Williams (1981), Regina Taylor (2004), Aaron Posner (2013) and others – most bizarrely, perhaps by the popular Russian crime writer Boris Akunin, whose version contains Chekhov’s original text followed by a continuation exploring the characters’ subsequent lives.

Seagull Akunin
Cover of Anton Chekhov/Boris Akunin, Chaika – komediia i ee prodolzhenie (Moscow, 2000) YA.2001.a.36762 

One thing is clear: unlike the seagull in Chekhov’s original play, shot by Konstantin and carried on dead halfway through Act II, The Seagull continues to soar to new heights 120 years after first taking wing. As Thomas Kilroy observes, `for all their sense of imminence, of the moment about-to-be, all Chekhov’s plays are rooted in an untidy present, full of inconsequentialities, of ordinary helplessness’, and it is this quality which gives The Seagull its timeless appeal.

Susan Halstead, Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences) Research Engagement

 

13 October 2016

Frederick Cosens, Shakespeare and the Spanish drama of the Golden Age.

Frederick William Cosens (1819-89) had a very successful career in the sherry and port wine trade between Britain and Spain and Portugal. The profits from his businesses permitted him to develop his interests in both fine art and literature. His put together an art collection that included notable Spanish and Italian drawings of the 16th-19th centuries, etchings and two drawings by Goya. His interests in English literature centred on Shakespeare and Dickens. However, his library, containing some 4,950 titles at his death, was remarkable in the British context for its rare editions of major Spanish writers, its manuscripts and for its extensive holdings of 19th-century works. His collections were sold by Sotheby’s after his death, and the British Museum purchased a total of 47 items of which 37 were related to Spain.

Cosens (1)
Frederick. W. Cosens, engraving by Joseph Swain 

Cosens also turned his hand to translation. He translated the Spanish epic, the Poema de Mio Cid, a version that remains unpublished. Three other translations bring together his interests in Spanish literature and Shakespeare. He published a version of Ejemplo 35 from Juan Manuel’s Conde Lucanor (ca. 1335), the tale of the Moor who marries a very strong and fierce young woman (‘fuerte y muy brava’) and succeeds in subjugating her: The Moorish Marriage, bearing some similarity to the story of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Just ten copies were printed.

Moorish Marriage
The Moorish
Marriage, translated by Cosens (London, 1867; 12490.a.37)

More substantial are two privately published versions of Golden Age comedias based on the legend of Romeo and Juliet: Lope de Vega’s Castelvines y Monteses. Tragicomedia (London, 1869; 11726.i.25) and Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla’s Los bandos de Verona. Montescos y Capeletes (London, 1874; 11725.h.80). Castelvines y Monteses, arguably written before 1604, was first published in Parte XXV of Lope de Vega’s complete works in 1647. Los bandos de Verona (1640) was first printed in 1645 in In the Segunda parte de las comedias de… Rojas Zorrilla (11726.c.25). Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, first printed in 1597, is generally dated to ca. 1595. Both Spanish dramatists drew on an Italian novella by Matteo Bandello (1554); this also lies behind Shakespeare’s immediate source, Arthur Brooke’s The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet (London, 1562; Huth.34.).

LopedeVega (1)
Portrait of Lope de Vega, attributed to Eugenio Cajés (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Cosens translated Castelvines y Monteses because he considered it worthy of a ‘better fate’ than it had received in an earlier version (Castelvines, pp. v-vii). Lope’s play is indeed unjustly neglected. The plot is fast paced from the very beginning, as his audience would have expected. It follows a similar outline to both Bandello’s and Shakespeare’s but with variations: it opens, for example, with the ball scene and Roselo/Romeo’s meeting with Julia/Juliet. Surprisingly, it ends happily with the successful reuniting of the lovers at Julia’s tomb and the resolution of the conflict between the families. As the subtitle ‘tragicomedia’ indicates, comic elements are present: for example, in Julia’s duping of Octavio, Roselo’s none-too-bright rival for her hand. Octavio’s subsequent death, stirred into action by his father, exemplifies this tragi-comic blend. In spite of its quality, Castelvines y Monteses is rarely performed in Spain; Spanish audiences are seemingly more willing to opt for productions of Romeo and Juliet in translation. (Castelvines y Monteses has been translated into modern English by Gwynne Edwards in Three Spanish Golden Age Plays (London, 2005; YC.2005.a.11238) and was performed at the Dell Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in August 2006, directed by Heather Davies.

BandosVeronaOpening scene of Los Bandos de Verona (Madrid, 1645), C.63.h.2.

Cosens considered Rojas Zorrilla’s Los bandos de Verona to be ‘inferior in every way to “Castelvines y Monteses”’. He therefore limited his English version to ‘such portions… as bear some reference to Shakespeare’s tragedy’ (Los bandos de Verona, p. viii). Like Lope, Rojas Zorrilla follows Bandello, but introduces further changes. He adds characters: Carlos Romeo, a friend of Alejandro Romeo (i.e. the Romeo) and, more crucial to the plot, Elena, Romeo’s sister, who is unhappily married to Count París. The latter, now a member of the Capelete clan, wishes to repudiate Elena and marry Julia/Juliet instead. Further innovations follow: Julia supposedly takes poison to thwart her father’s injunction to choose between Count París and her cousin, Andrés. In fact, Los bandos is altogether a very different kind of play both from Romeo and Juliet and Castelvines y Monteses. It contains more action, culminating with Alejandro Romeo’s threat to storm a tower in which Elena and Carlos are held prisoner. Eventually, however, peace is restored and the feud is ended by the marriage of Alejandro Romeo and Julia. The family feud and a possible political dimension predominate over the original, tragic love story.

Recent critical opinion has largely justified Cosens’ opinion of the two Spanish plays.

Geoff West, formerly Lead Curator Hispanic Collections

11 October 2016

Andreas Gryphius, monarchs and mechanicals

In 2016 we have been commemorating the 400th anniversaries of the deaths of both Cervantes and Shakespeare. Today, however, we look at a literary figure who was born in the year of those deaths, Andreas Gryphius.

Gryphius portrait
Andreas Gryphius, after an engraving by Philip Kilian. Reproduced in Marian Szyrocki Andreas Gryphius: sein Leben und Werk (Tübingen 1964) British Library X.909/3470

Gryphius was born in Glogau in Silesia, today Polish Głogów, on 2 October 1616 although some sources claim 11 October as the date, possibly a confusion of birth and baptismal dates, but more likely due simply to roman numerals being read as arabic ones. His early years were marked by personal loss and the upheavals of what would become the Thirty Years’ War. His father died when he was four years old, his mother seven years later, and young Andreas spent the following years moving between various Silesian towns, living with his stepfather or other relatives and patrons, sometimes attending school and sometimes studying independently. In 1638 he entered the University of Leyden, a centre of European scholarship and a refuge from the ongoing war in the German territories, where he could develop his literary and academic talents in an atmosphere both politically safe and intellectually stimulating. After six years in Leyden and a further four travelling around Europe, Gryphius returned to Silesia and in 1649 was appointed Syndic of his native Glogau, a post he held until his death in 1664, despite being a Protestant in a state that, since the Peace Of Westphalia, was under Catholic control. Alongside the duties of his post, he continued the writing career which had begun in his teens.

Despite the vicissitudes of the Thirty Years’ War, German literature was enjoying something of a renaissance in this period, with writers such as the founders of the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft (modelled on the Italian academies) seeking to give German a new status as a language of literature and scholarship. Gryphius became a member in 1662, and was given the soubriquet ‘der Unsterbliche’ (the Immortal), which suggests the esteem in which contemporaries held him, although it  has some poignancy in retrospect given that Gryphius was dead within two years of his election to the society.

Gryphius frontispiece 11525.bb.3
Frontispiece of a collected edition of Gryphius’s works, A Gryphii Deutsche Gedichte erster Theil (Breslau, 1657) 11525.bb3.

As well as poems and plays Gryphius wrote factual prose works and was not afraid of controversy. One of his first published works, Fewrige Freystadt, describes the fire that devastated the Silesian town of Freystadt (modern-day Kożuchów) in 1637, and openly criticises the authorities for failures in dealing with the crisis. In his early years as a Syndic in Glogau, he published a collection of historical documents Glogauisches Fürstenthumbs Landes Privilegia ... (Lissa, 1653; 1502/223) intended to demonstrate to the ruling Habsburg Emperor that local freedoms had a long precedent and could not be overturned by a centralising absolutist state. But it is for his poems, and perhaps even more his plays, that Gryphius is best remembered today. The plays include both tragedies and comedies (among the latter the splendidly titled Horribilcribrifax Teutsch), and interestingly one of each has an English connection.

The tragedy Ermordete Majestät, oder Carolus Stuardus is unusual for its time in dramatizing a near-contemporary event, the execution of the English King Charles I in 1649. Although the play was not published until 1657, Gryphius began work on it soon after hearing of Charles’s execution, and he later revised it partly to take account of the Restoration. The action is relatively static: various groups of people discuss the reasons for or against and the possible repercussions of regicide, Charles prepares to die a martyr, and a series of allegorical choruses comment on the situation. Gryphius strongly takes the royalist side, and seems to have a low opinion of how the English treat their monarchs in general: in Act I the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots lists a number of murdered kings (who later appear as a chorus) and reflects ‘Es ist der Insell Art’ (‘It is the way of the Island’ [i.e. Britain]).

Gryphius Carolus 11525.bb.3
The opening of Ermordete Majestät, oder Carolus Stuardus from the 1657 collection of Gryphius’s works

Gryphius’s ‘English’ comedy is Absurda Comica, oder Herr Peter Squentz, essentially a version of the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ material from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, although leaving out the fairies and Bottom’s transformation. The comedy shows the schoolmaster Peter Squentz and his players preparing their version of Pyramus and Thisbe and presenting it to drama-loving King Theodorus and his court in the hope of winning favour. Their rustic language, outmoded poetic style and frequent blunders cause great amusement among the aristocratic audience, and the play is sometimes described as a satire on common folk who pretend to be learned and talented above their station, but Squentz and his company are nonetheless shown to come off well since Theodorus rewards them with 15 Gulden for every mistake.

Gryphius Squentz 11745.a.55.
A song performed by the weaver and Meistersinger Lollinger in Absurda Comica, oder Herr Peter Squentz, from the collection A Gryphii Freuden und Trauer-Spiele auch Oden und Sonnette (Leipzig, 1663) 11745.a.55. It is a parody of the Meistergesang style, widely considered outdated by Gryphius’s time.

Gryphius claims to have adapted his work from that of Daniel Schwendter, revising and improving Schwendter’s text. It his highly unlikely that either Schwendter or Gryphius knew Shakespeare’s original play, but quite possible that either could have seen a version of it –or of the Mechanicals subplot – performed by travelling English players on the continent, an idea supported by the fact that one of Gryphius’s characters is called Pickelhäring, the name of a stock fool character among such troupes.

While even Gryphius’s most ardent admirers could hardly claim him as Shakespeare’s literary equal or heir, there is nonetheless a nice symmetry in the fact that the author of this first literary reworking of a Shakespeare play in German was born in the year of Shakespeare’s death and died in 1664, the centenary year of Shakespeare’s birth.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

06 October 2016

Mistress, Mädchen and Minzmeat Pasteten: Kitchen English with Elsa Olga Hollis

Readers may remember a blog post some time ago featuring  a manual for Czech servicemen simultaneously fighting alongside their British comrades to repel the threat of invasion and struggling with the English language. They were not, however, the only ones forced by history to grapple with a new language and bewildering customs.

The British Library holds a copy of a curious little book published at the modest price of three shillings and sixpence and ‘specially compiled to help the mistress and her German-speaking maid’ by Elsa Olga Hollis. Nothing is known about the author, who claims in the preface that she was encouraged to publish her work by friends and their foreign maids who had used her as an interpreter. She acknowledges the help of ‘Miss Lorna Yarde Bunyard’, who typed the manuscript and revised the English, and was presumably responsible for some of the oddly unidiomatic expressions and misprints, as when the maid is directed to close, not the Flügeltür (French window), but the Flügeltier, a strange winged creature.

Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter  first appeared in May 1937 and by November of that year had already gone into a third edition. Clearly it was in great demand – but why?

Mistress und Mädchen cover
Cover of Elsa Olga Hollis, Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter = German and English household phrases and words. (Mistress and Mädchen. A comprehensive German and English domestic phrase-book) (London, 1937) British Library 12964.bb.54.

Hollis’s book was published some months before the British government introduced a visa requirement for refugees seeking entry from Germany and Austria following Hitler’s annexation of Austria in March 1938. Many of the women who arrived as domestic help came from wealthy and cultured families which employed servants, and had never had to make a bed or lay a table in their lives, let alone ‘throw the ashes and hard clinkers into the dustbin’, ‘empty slops and wipe utensils dry’ or tackle the ‘light work … getting tea, cleaning silver, ironing, mending clothes, cleaning out cupboards and so on’ between three o’ clock and the preparation of the evening meal. Marion Berghahn’s Continental Britons: German-Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany (revised ed., Oxford, 2007; YC.2007.a.9766) notes the psychological adjustments needed and the frequent insensitivity of employers who ‘lacked any clear ideas of their domestics’ backgrounds’ and exploited them mercilessly as cheap labour.

In fiction, characters who arrived in England in this way appear in Natasha Solomons’s  The Novel in the Viola ([Bath], 2011; LT.2012.x.1871) and Eva Ibbotson’s The Morning Gift (London, 1994; H.95/761). Both authors recalled the experiences of relatives who escaped from Austria in the 1930s on domestic service visas, like Solomons’s Elise Landau, who confidently advertises ‘Viennese Jewess, 19, seeks position as domestic servant. Speaks fluid English. I will cook your goose’, or Ibbotson’s heroine Ruth Berger’s Aunt Hilda, an eminent anthropologist but inept housemaid who is repeatedly bitten by her employer's pug and gets the sack when she brings a glass-fronted bookcase crashing down on her while attempting to dust.

The adventure begins with ‘Meeting the Boat’ (‘the crossing was (very, not) good, bad. I have (not) been seasick’), the Customs, and a train journey, culminating in ‘Arrival at the House’ (‘the chauffeur will bring in the rest of your luggage’) and ‘A Little Talk over Tea’, where the mistress of the house presses jam, cake, rolls and pastries on Marie, the new housemaid. She is informed that she will have to undertake the housework and all the cooking, though a charwoman comes for the rough work (‘grobe Arbeiten’), and assured ‘Sometimes we will try your native cookery’. Weekly and daily plans for housework are included, beginning with washing day on Monday (‘Here is the wash-tub, washing machine, soap, soda, soap-powder, Lux, copper stick, Blue and starch, mangle’) leading to the puzzled enquiry, ‘We do not “air” clothes at home. Why is it done?’), whereupon it is explained that ‘in England the air is so moist that everything gets damp’. Weights, measures and ‘really economical’ recipes are provided, together with precise instructions about how to make tea and ‘Toast machen’. One can picture poor Marie’s perplexity when requested to prepare ‘Reis Pudding’, ‘Talg-Puddings’ (the unappetizing translation of ‘suet puddings’), and ‘Minzmeat Pasteten’ for Christmas, not to mention ‘Rührei auf Toost’.

Mistress und Mädchen mince pies
A culture shock for Marie? The recipes for mincemeat and mince pies from Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter

Not surprisingly, the heavy work, unfamiliar food and peremptory demands of her mistress (‘You will have to wait at table. See what Baby wants. You must finish your work sooner’) take their toll on Marie’s health, spirits and digestion. ‘What is wrong with you?’ barks Madam, to be met with a catalogue of ailments: ‘[I have head-, eye-, ear-, tooth-, stomach ache. …I have a cold in the head, a nosebleed, a cough, indigestion’ (it must be all those tallow puddings). The plaintive query ‘Do I give satisfaction?’ receives only the chilly reply, ‘I have no reason to complain’, and the domestic tyrant continues ‘Be more careful with the breakable things…. If that happens again I shall have to give you notice! … I must send you back home’. Finally, the worm turns: ‘I wish to give notice,’ announces Marie. Triumphantly, her mistress brandishes the permit: ‘This permit is valid only for the particular employment for which it is issued … If you wish to leave now, I am afraid you will have to go home’.

It would be pleasant to think that Jan Novák, the Czech airman from Vojáci, učte se anglicky!, was invited to tea in the household and captivated by the sight of Marie, trim in her afternoon uniform (‘black, brown or wine-coloured dress (wool), small cap, and “afternoon” apron’); their eyes meet over the tea-tray, and they arrange a tryst in her meagre leisure time (‘one afternoon and evening a week and every other Sunday afternoon and evening free’), shyly exchanging phrases from their respective handbooks… One fears not. The German preface, unlike the English one, emphasizes the need to rise early, work quickly, and suppress any homesickness, ‘taking a great interest in everything new’ instead. But despite the unhappiness which many a Mädchen (of whatever age) endured, the domestic service visa was, all too often, a life-saver.

Susan Halstead,  Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences), Research Engagement

03 October 2016

Pavlo Kovzhun or ‘adopt his enthusiasm...’

When Filippo Tommaso Marinetti explained his view of the beauty of the contemporary world, in his first Manifesto of Futurism (1909), Pavlo Kovzhun was only thirteen. A few years later he already considered himself to be a Futurist, but at the same time did not care for the radical Italian’s desire to “exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap”.

In a short time this fact became the main point of difference in the experience of Ukrainian and Italian Modernism. However this was never a point of contention between Western European and Ukrainian artists – later Kovzhun, already an experienced artist, promoted Italian artistic classics of the 1900-1910s with admiration, showing his understanding of the audacity of this avant-garde movement.

In the history of Ukrainian modern art it is difficult to find a figure with equal enthusiasm and devotion to his art as Pavlo Kovzhun. The inheritance which he took from his idol Heorhii Narbut committed him to the exhausting work which drove him to his grave at the age of 43. But the scale of his creative work is enormous compared to the shortness of his life.

PavloKovzhunPortraitPavlo Kovzhun was born on October 3, 1896 in the village of Kostiushky in the Zhytomyr region. He studied at  the Kyiv Art College from 1911-1915, where his teachers were Hanna Kliuer-Prakhova, Mykola Murashko, and Ivan Seleznov. From 1913 he began to show his works in exhibitions. Aged 18 he was one of the founders of the Futurist Literary Artistic Group.

His first artistic works (mostly graphic) were under the influence of the St Petersburg artistic group Mir Iskusstva, and its leading representative, Heorhii Narbut. The direction introduced by this outstanding graphic master appealed to the young artist – the recreation of the heritage of the old Ukrainian engravers. Kovzhun wholeheartedly shared the ideas of the young Kyiv intellectuals that new qualities of Ukrainian art should be built on the spiritual and aesthetic basis created in former times. This appeal to the period of the climax of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, recognized throughout Europe, seemed to Pavlo Kovzhun and some of his student friends (Robert Lisovs'kyi, Vasyl' Kryzhanivs'kyi and Anatol' Petryts'kyi) the best choice as a basis for their art. Later Kovzhun developed this idea theoretically, analysing some aspects of contemporary Ukrainian graphics, and also presented his own formal-aesthetic arguments to prove it. His first graphic works, marked by modernist stylistics, appeared in the prestigious St Petersburg journal Apollon (British Library P.P.1931.pmf), and in some periodicals in Kyiv.

With the start of the First World War, and the Ukrainian National Liberation struggle, Kovzhun was at the front, creating printed matter for the army units, promoting Ukrainian national identity. He was one of the co-founders of the Hrunt publishing house and the Muzahet literary-artistic group. After the retreat with army troops and the government of the UNR (Ukrainian People’s Republic), in 1921 he edited the satirical humorous journal Izhak (Hedgehog) in Stanislav (then in Poland; now Ivano-Frankivsk). In the same year he moved to Lviv. ‘From now I begin to work,’ he wrote in a letter to the Ukrainian poet and intellectual  Mykola Voronyi. ‘I nearly lost my faith. I lived through the war in fire and revolution in blood, but still holding our banner. This is my nature. Now there is no blood, no fire, I pulled up my sleeves and took my brush and pen.’

In Lviv he initially worked on some private commissions (interior design, artistic decoration). In 1922 he became a member of the literary-artistic group Mytusa, and was a founder member and Secretary of the Group of Representatives of Ukrainian Art. As well as taking part in numerous art exhibitions, he cooperated with the editors of the periodicals Mytusa, Moloda Ukraina, Budiak, Masky, Zyz, Kul'tura, Nova Kul'tura, Svit, Mystetstvo, Universal'nyi Zhurnal, and Nova Heneratsiia. He was a member of the artistic group ‘Artes’ (Lviv, early 1930s), co-founder of the Association of Independent Ukrainian Artists (1931), of which he was also Secretary.

PAVLOKOVZHUNAWARDEXLIBRISDSC_2994Exlibris of the Ivan Franko  Society of Writers and Journalists by Pavlo Kovzhun. From: Ekslibris. Zbirnyk asotsiatsii nezalezhnykh ukrainskykh mysttsiv. Pershyi vypusk. (L'viv, 1932) Cup. 936/2190) 

Kovzhun’s artistic legacy consists of hundreds of graphic works, dozens of paintings, and more than a hundred publications on art. In cooperation (mostly with M. Osin'chuk) he created frescoes in twelve churches in Galicia, which became exemplars of this type of work for his contemporaries, and have not lost their artistic value even at the start of the 21st century. But the most remarkable contribution of Kovzhun is in the area of book illustration and periodical design. He was responsible for the design of the most prestigious books published in Ukraine between the wars: books by Ivan Franko, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Pavlo Tychyna, Osyp Makovei, Borys Hrinchenko, Mykhailo Staryts'kyi, Mykola Holubets' and others, and dozens of calendars and periodicals. Among his works are posters, caricatures, book-plates, publishers' logos and emblems, theatre designs and more.

PACLOKOVZHUNBOOKCOVERSDSC_2985Covers of books designed by Pavlo Kovzhun from the British Library's collections: Chykalenko, Ievhen. Spohady (L'viv, 1925-1926).20003.f.45 (on the left) and Franko, Ivan. Boryslav smiiet'sia (L'viv-Kyiv, 1922) YA.1988.a.15528 (on the right).

In his stylistic designs Kovzhun’s graphic works absorb in themselves a combination of the leading concepts of European visual art between the wars: Futurism, Expressionism and Constructivism. The basis of his artistic creations which he developed systematically as plastic equivalents of Ukrainian national style, was the concept of Neo-Baroque. In combination with these leading universal styles the majority of Kovzhun’s works are marked by his interpretation of Art Deco, which was recognized by famous artists and critics: articles about Kovzhun appeared in prestigious art journals, such as Grafika (Poland), Umeni Slovanu (Czechoslovakia), Gebrauchsgraphik (Germany) and others.

PAVLOKOVZHUNBACLEXLIBRIS2DSC_2993Bookplates for various Ukrainian authors designed by Pavlo Kovzhun (from: Ekslibris. Zbirnyk asotsiatsii nezalezhnykh ukrainskykh mysttsiv. Pershyi vypusk. L'viv, 1932. Cup. 936/2190) 

Pavlo Kovzhun died on May 15, 1939 in Lviv, and was buried in the historic Lychakiv Cemetery . He left a huge and varied artistic and theoretical legacy. His art and his mentality were full of the pathos of the creation of new values in Ukrainian aesthetic culture, which unites with the realities of 21st century art.

PAVLOKOVZHUNMOSTRECENTBOOKTITLEPAGEDSC_2989Title page of Pavlo Kovzhun. Tvorcha spadshchyna khudozhnyka: materialy, biobibliohrafichnyi dovidnyk. (L’viv, 2010). YF.2012.b.406

Dr Roman Yatsiv, Pro-Rector, Lviv National Art Academy

Further reading:

Sviatoslav Hordynskyi. Pavlo Kovzhun. 1896-1939. (Krakiv-Lviv, 1943). Available at: http://www.ovruch.info/svyatoslav-hordynskyj-pavlo-kovzhun/

Roman Iatsiv. “Pereimemo ioho entuziazm..”. In Dzvin, issue 12/1991, pp. 93-98. P.P.4842.dpt

Myttsi Ukrainy. Entsyklopedychnyi dovidnyk (Kyiv, 1992). YA.1999.a.172

Syrota L. Literaturna hrupa “Mytusa” i Pavlo Kovzhun. In : Narodoznavchi Zozhyty. Issue 5/1998. ZA.9.b.1768

Kis-Fedoruk, O. Knyzhkova hrafika Pavla Kovzhuna. In : Narodoznavchi Zoshyty. Issue 1/2000. ZA.9.b.1768

Kis-Fedoruk, O. Z istorii vzaiemyn Pavla Kovzhuna i Mykoly Voronoho. In : Vidkrytyi arkhiv. Tom 1, 2004. ZF.9.a.3222

Pavlo Kovzhun. Tvorcha spadshchyna khudozhnyka: materialy, biobibliohrafichnyi dovidnyk. (L’viv, 2010). YF.2012.b.406

Mitchenko, Vitaliĭ. Estetyka ukraïnsʹkoho rukopysnoho shryftu. (Kyiv, 2007). YF.2008.b.2188