THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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10 posts from December 2016

25 December 2016

The Universe in ‘the Galosh of Happiness’: Halia Mazurenko

Anyone who wants to see the construction of the artistic phenomenon in the space of the artist and poet Halia Mazurenko’s syncretic meaning and metaphor has to understand the aesthetic nature of her artistic heritage. Her childhood and youth were full of sharp collisions and spiritual dramas, which in her later years gave corresponding emotional material for deep philosophical reflections.

Halia Mazurenko was born on 25 December 1901 in St Petersburg into the family of a Russian landowner, Sergei Bogoliubov, and Elyzaveta Mazurenko, the descendant of a Ukrainian Cossack family. Her godmother was the Russian poet Zinaida Gippius. But soon the circumstances Halia’s life changed: her parents divorced, and the mother and daughter returned to their family in Ekaterinoslav/Katerynoslav (now Dnipro).

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 Cover of Vybrane (Selected works) by Halia Mazurenko (Kyiv, 2002). YF.2005.a.20221

Young Halia spoke French fluently and started to write poems at an early age. Her first poem was dedicated to Ukraine. At the same time she also studied drawing and sculpture in the private studio of the well-known Ukrainian impressionist Viacheslav Koreniev. At the age of 14, she started to work in the Ekaterinoslav Historical Museum, which held a valuable collection of Ukrainian Cossack artefacts. Its director, Dmytro Iavornytskyi, commissioned her to sculpt the heads of Ukrainian Hetmans for the facade of the museum building. But Halia went to join her uncle at the front during the First World War, and later joined the Ukrainian liberation struggle in the army of Symon Petliura.

After the end of the War, Halia continued her studies in Warsaw and Berlin, where in 1921 she presented her sculpture at the Exhibition of Ukrainian Art Students, together with Mykola Hlushchenko, Ivan Babii, Mykola Butovych and Fedir Iemets. After this she moved to Prague, where in 1926 she published the first collection of her poems Akvareli (‘Watercolours’). At the same time she became a student at the Ukrainian Studio of Plastic Arts, where her supervisors were the painter Ivan Kulets', the sculptor Kostiantyn Stakhovskyi, and the graphic artist Robert Lisovskyi. She also prepared her dissertation on the psychology of colour in the work of Vincent van Gogh, as well as collaborating on the literary journals Literaturno-Naukovyi Visnyk (L'viv, 1892-1932; Ac.762/4) and Proboiem (Prague, 1935-1937; ZL.9.a.159).

Being in difficult financial circumstances she married, but soon after the birth of her daughter she was divorced. Halia’s mother persuaded her to continue her studies in Prague, and took the grand-daughter Maryna with her to Ukraine. Halia would never see her child again: in 1937 she received a message about the arrest and execution of her mother. Only at the end of her life in London did she find that Maryna had been rescued by her mother’s neighbour and grew up in a strange family under the name of Goncharova. This was not the end of difficult circumstances in Halia’s life; in the 1930s she married the literary critic Baikov, and had a son and a daughter. With two small children she survived the bombardment of Prague, and after the Second World War she moved to London with her family, where she worked actively in the fields of literature and art. From 1961 to 1973 there were nine personal exhibitions of her work in the USA, Iceland, Wales, Pakistan, and London.

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Cover of autobiographical novel by Halia Mazurenko Ne toi kozak, khto poborov, a toi kozak, khto ‘vyvernetsia’(‘A true Cossack not so much defeats the enemy as knows how to escape from his clutches’) London, 1974; X.908/28914.

The majority of her works were watercolours, mixed graphic techniques, and enamels. The subjects of her works were symbolic landscapes, floral and animal motifs, sketches for psychological portraits, and mystical scenes. In London she published at her own expense collections of her poetry, often illustrated with her own drawings. The most famous of them are Kliuchi (‘The keys’, London, 1969; X.908/19768), Zelena iashchirka (‘The Green Lizard’, London, 1971; X.900/5253), Skyt poetiv (‘Poets’ retreat’, London, 1971; X.908/24280), Try misiatsi v literi zhyttia (‘Three months in the alphabet of life’, London, 1973’ X.108/12821) and Pivnich na vulytsi (‘Midnight on the street’, London, 1980; X.950/2914; cover below).

MazurenkoPivnicnavulytsiCover

For decades, working in her modest accommodation in London’s Belsize Square, she built her unique imaginary world, and as she wrote in one of her poems, ‘The Galosh of Happiness’ creating her own milieu. As well as making thousands of drawings, paintings and enamels, hundreds of poems (some in English), and her albums of memoirs, she also taught pupils at her private art studio ‘Tuesday Group’.

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Title-page of Silent melodies (London, 1982). X.955/1928

She died on May 27, 2000, leaving a massive heritage, which we can describe in her own words ‘In philosophy I am interested firstly in the moral strength of humans… The moral height of a strong personality which did not bend under circumstances was always the inspiration for my work’.

MazurenkoЗ новим роком

  Handwritten message Z Novym Rokom! (Happy New New!) by Halia Mazurenko (From the private archive of Roman Yatsiv, reproduced with his kind permission).


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

Further reading:

25 poetiv ukrains’koi diaspory (Kyiv, 2006). YF.2007.a.23877

Ihor Kachurovskyi,  Promenysti syl’vety (Kyiv, 2008). YF.2011.a.17413

Halia Mazurenko. (Lviv, 1991). YA.2000.a.13341

23 December 2016

Christmas in the Trenches 1916: a Mystery Play.

This year I showed some items from our Low Countries collections  with a Christmas theme at the annual Christmas party for the Patrons of the British Library. I had selected three items, all of them worthy of a blog post, but I decided to pick just one: L’Adoration des Soldats, or ‘The Adoration of the Soldiers’. This year is the hundredth anniversary of its publication. It was not published in the Netherlands, or Flanders, but in London, the residence of its author Émile Cammaerts and place of refuge of its illustrator, Dutch cartoonist Louis Raemaekers.

The Adoration is a nice example of some of the more subtle Allied propaganda during World War I. Cammaerts’ wife, British actress Helen Tita Braun, better known under her stage name of Tita Brands, translated the French text into English. The English text is printed on the left hand pages, the French text on the right hand pages. Margaret B. Calkin wrote the script.

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Title-page of Emile Cammaerts, L’Adoration des soldats = The adoration of the soldiers (London, [1916]). K.T.C.26.b.29.

It was the perfect book for the occasion, because it looks like an illuminated medieval manuscript, so practically guaranteed a warm reception with the public. The text is printed on high quality, thick paper, in black and red ink, in a medieval looking font. The initials are decorated, as are the spaces on lines where the text does not run to the end. It is bound in cream cloth, resembling vellum, with gilt decorations. Just as one would expect of a publisher like The Fine Arts Society

AdorSold01InitialEngP1090287

In the Foreword it says: “The Adoration of the Soldiers is a short mystery play which was suggested to Mons. Cammaerts during a visit which he paid to the Belgian Trenches in Christmas Week.” In what year this visit took place is not mentioned. The story is set in the trenches during Christmas. The main characters are four soldiers: The Believer, The Grumbler, The Jovial One and The Sceptic. They see a rocket being fired which fails to fall down on them, but remains hanging in the air, like a bright burning star. Soon after an old man leading a donkey carrying a young woman appears, as if from nowhere. How they managed to get through enemy lines and how they know the password is a mystery.

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After some deliberations the soldiers allow the couple to take shelter in their dug-out. All apart from The Believer go to sleep. Soon an angel appears to the soldiers, bringing the happy tidings of Christ’s birth, as on every Christmas. This year He chose to be reborn amongst “…his martyrs and defenders”, of which the angel says: “Let this be to you a token of victory!”.
The story ends with the soldiers adoring the Christ-Child in their dug-out, joined by people from the local village. All sing a local Christmas song.

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I have not been able to find evidence of ‘The Adoration’ ever being performed, either in churches or in the trenches. If anyone knows of any such performance, please get in touch.

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections (Low Countries)

21 December 2016

The Lettered Bridge: Aleksandr Kazem-Bek

Long before the Soviets began their process of korenizatsiia, Imperial Russia boasted a small but prominent cadre of indigenous non-Russian academics. Among those from the 19th century is Aleksandr Kasimovich Kazem-Bek, a colourful mid-century scholar of Turkic and Persian. Kazem-Bek was born Muhammad Ali Kazem-Bek in 1802 in Rasht, Iran, the son of a prominent Shi’ite scholar and daughter of the local governor. At the age of 9, his family moved from Rasht to his father’s native Derbent in contemporary Dagestan. It was here that he met Scottish Presbyterian missionaries, and eventually decided to convert to Christianity.

Kazem-Bek portrait X.809-1671

Portrait of Kazem-Bek from Mirza Kazem-Bek by A.Rzaev (Baku, 1965). X.809/1671

Kazem-Bek’s conversion caused concern among Muslims and Russian Christians alike. The local authorities were worried that he would act as a bridgehead for British influence among the local populations, and he was exiled to Astrakhan. Although punitive, the move allowed him to begin his career in service of the Russian Imperial government as a translator from Persian and Azeri into Russian. It was first step that led to posts in both Kazan – the seat of one of the country’s largest Oriental Studies departments – and St. Petersburg, the Imperial capital. His immersion in both the Islamic and Christian faiths (notwithstanding his occasional polemics against Islam) and his mastery of Russian, Turkish, Tatar, Arabic and Farsi allowed him to act as a conduit of knowledge from the newly conquered regions on the southern fringe of the Empire to the Imperial centres of military, political and economic power.

Kazem-Bek memoir 864.g.43

Among the earliest of his works was an autobiographical account of his conversion from Islam to Christianity entitled A Brief Memoir of the Life and Conversion of Mahomed Ali Bey, a Learned Persian of Derbent (Philadelphia, 1827; 864.g.43; title-page above). This essay was more than simply an ego project: it marked the first of a number of endeavours over the next thirty years to explain and scrutinize the faith of Russia’s new Muslim populations for the benefit of Russian-speaking readers. From 1844, for example, we have his translation of the Kitab mukhtaṣar al-wiḳāyā fī masā’il al-hidāyā (‘The Book of the Collection of Consciousness in the Questions of Gifts’), a 12th century tract dedicated to the examination of the Shar’ia, or Islamic law. There is even a work in the Library’s collection from as late as 1859 entitled Miftāḥ kunūz al-Ḳur’ān (‘Key to the Treasures of the Qur’an’) (St. Petersburg, 1859; 14514.d.13), demonstrating that inter-religious comparison ran like a thread through Kazem-Bek’s oeuvre.

  Kazem-Bek MS notes 306.412.B.7

Kitab mukhtaṣar al-wiḳāyā fī masā’il al-hidāyā (Kazan, 1844; 306.41.B.7). An introduction to the work including autobiographical details by the editor, Aleksandr Kazem-Bek, with grammatical corrections to the Arabic, possibly in Kazem-Bek’s own hand.

The scholar’s two most passionate interests, however, were history and language. In many ways, Kazem-Bek’s writings adumbrated the shift in emphasis from religious community to ethno-linguistic belonging that would grow apace following the 1905 Revolution in Russia. This is exemplified by his insistence on studying the vernacular cultures of Russia’s Turkic subjects. The earliest of his historical works held at the Library is the Asseb" o-sseĭiar" / Sem' planet" soderzhashchii istoriiu  Krymskikh" khanov" (‘The Seven Planets Comprising the History of the Crimean Khans’) 

Kazem-Bek 14456.h.21. titlepage

Title-page of Asseb" o-sseĭiar"(Kazan, 1832) 14456.h.21

 This is followed by an English version of his Derbend-Nâmeh, or The History of Derbent. His choice of topic is an indication that, despite his conversion and exile from Azerbaijan, Kazem-Bek never forgot his childhood home or the territory of his ancestors. Finally, among the later works produced on the history of the region, we hold his Bab" i babidy:  religiozno-politicheskiia smuty v" Persīi v" 1844-1852 godakh" (‘Babas and the Babids: Politico-Religious Turmoil in Persia’ 1844-1852) (St.Petersburg, 1865; 4504.f.30). Even as a professor and an eminent scholar, Kazem-Bek did not tire of analyzing the social environment of the Caspian region.

Kazem-Bek 11456.h.14 Titlepage

Derbend-Nâmeh, or The History of Derbent (St. Petersburg, 1851) 14456.h.14. Title-page (above) and signed; inscription by Kazem-Bek (below)

Kazem-Bek 14456.h.14 inscription

Within the realm of language and linguistics, among his most passionate topics was the typology of Turkic languages and cultures. The Library holds both the original 1846 Russian version (12906.c.34) and the 1848 German translation (T.6887) of his primary work of historical linguistics, Obshchaia  grammatika Turetsko-Tatarskago iazyka (‘General Grammar of the Turco-Tatar Language’). Whatever the value of Kazem-Bek’s theoretical approaches to the study of language, his interest in the languages and dialects of the Eurasian steppe – particularly Kazan Tatar and Uighur – helped focus contemporary minds on the distinctive characteristics of the various Turkic idioms. This too translated into socio-political action, especially cultural and social reform. Indeed, Kazem-Bek is known to have been in contact with another Azeri linguistic reformer, Fathali Akhundzade, about issues of modernization and popular education.

Kazem-Bek Grammar Russian 12906.c.34 Kazem-Bek grammar German T.6887
Russian and German editions of Kazan-Bek’s Turko-Tatar grammar

 Aleksandr Kazem-Bek was no stranger to controversy, and it is indeed partly thanks to this controversy that his memory has lived on through the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. The works of his housed at the British Library and other institutions, however, demonstrate that he was a formidable part of 19th century Turkic intellectual history, and an important builder of the foundation of Russian Oriental Studies.

Michael Erdman, Curator of Turkish and Turkic Collections

 

19 December 2016

Stones, Coffins and Violin Cases: Andrey Platonov

I began translating Andrey Platonov (1899-1951) over 40 years ago. Joseph Brodsky saw him as at least the equal of Proust, Joyce, Musil or Kafka. I myself feel the same. I am hoping that a few quotations may be enough to make readers wish to learn more about him.

Платонов,_Андрей_Платонович_(1922)PORTRAIT

Andrey Platonov in 1922

The son of a railway worker who also gilded the cupolas of churches, Andrey Platonov was born at the turn of a century – on 1 September 1899 – and between town and country, on the edge of the central Russian city of Voronezh. He was a talented engineer and many of his heroes are craftsmen of some kind, often eccentric and lonely. Here are the first lines of his novel Chevengur (1927-28; the British Library holds a 2008 edition with illustrations by Svetlana Filippova:  YF.2009.a.29735):

Old provincial towns have tumbledown outskirts, and people come straight from nature to live there. A man appears, with a keen-eyed face that has been worn out to the point of sadness, a man who can fix up or equip anything but who has himself lived through life unequipped. There was not one object, from a frying pan to an alarm clock, that had not at some time passed through the hands of this man. […] But he had never made anything for himself – neither a family, nor a dwelling.

There is a great deal of pain, a sense of brokenness, in Platonov’s earlier work. Many of his heroes and heroines are orphans. This is from the second paragraph of his novel Schastlivaia Moskva (‘Happy Moscow’, 1934-36; British Library editions at: YA.2000.a.35626 and YF.2011.a.168):

Her father died from typhoid; the hungry, orphaned girl went out of the house and never went back there again. Remembering neither people nor space, her soul gone to sleep, for several years she walked and ate up and down her country, as if her mother land were an emptiness, until she came to herself in a children’s home and at school.

This girl goes on to become a glamorous flying instructor, but her traumatic childhood remains with her, dragging her down. She loses her job. Working as a manual labourer on the construction of the Moscow metro, she then loses one leg in an accident.

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Andrey Platonov, Happy Moscow, translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler (London, 2013) H.2014/.6789 

Platonov was a passionate supporter of the 1917 Revolution and remained sympathetic to the dream that gave birth to it, yet no one wrote more searingly of its consequences. He treats collectivisation and the Terror Famine with black humour:

‘The coffins!’ the peasant announced. ‘We stacked those wooden coffins into the cave for future use – and now you’re digging up the whole gully. Give us our coffins back! […] Them coffins are made to measure – we’ve marked each one so we know who goes where. Our coffins are what keep us all going. Yes, they’re all we’ve got left – a coffin’s an entire livelihood to us. And before we buried them in the cave, we lay down in them – we’ve got them worn in!’

Platonov writes equally vividly about the lives of a member of the Moscow elite and of a railwayman in a remote northern forest, about the lives of a baby hare and a steam engine. The tenderness and precision of his description of the baby hare makes me think of D.H. Lawrence at his best. Here, though, are a few lines about Platonov’s favourite bird, the proletarian sparrow:

In the depth of winter, near midnight, a blizzard began. The old man was playing his last piece – Schubert’s Winterreise – and then he intended to go off to rest. Just then, from the middle of the wind and snow, appeared the familiar, greying sparrow. With his delicate, insignificant little feet he settled on the frosty snow; then he walked a little around the violin case, fearless and indifferent to the whirls of wind buffeting him over his entire body – and then he flew right inside the case. There the sparrow began pecking the bread, almost burying himself in its warm softness.

Platonov’s place in the Soviet literary world was always borderline. Some of his works were published—and subjected to fierce criticism. Others were accepted for publication—yet never actually published. Unable to publish original work during his last years, he received a commission for a book of adaptations of Russian folk tales. With only the subtlest of changes, he was able to make these his own:

‘Thank you, young man,’ he said. ‘There was charm in the forbidden dress and wisdom in the book. The mirror showed all things visible – all that seems in the world. I thought I’d collected a good dowry for my daughter, only I didn’t want to give it to her too soon. I thought I’d brought her gifts of every kind, but I’d left out the one kind that matters, the kindness that was there inside you. I went far away in search of this gift, but it was close at hand all the time. It’s never a given, nor can anyone give it – it seems we must each seek it out for ourselves.’

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Andrei Platonov. Ivan-chudo: rasskazy, skazki (Cheliabinsk, 1986). YA.1995.a.4659

The death of Platonov’s son – from tuberculosis caught in the Gulag – was only one of many tragedies that he endured with extraordinary courage. He did not intend it as such, but I see this description of a plane tree as a self-portrait:

During its spring floods, the river must have flung mountain stones at the very heart of the plane, but the tree had consumed these vast stones into its body, encircled them with patient bark, made them something it could live with, endured them into its own self, and gone on growing further, meekly lifting up as it grew taller what should have destroyed it.

 Robert Chandler, translator (All translations by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler)

Robert Chandler will be talking about Platonov and about his recent translation Fourteen Little Red Huts and other plays at an event at Pushkin House on 14 February 2017. Further details and how to book here.  

 PlatonovNewTranslation

15 December 2016

The dangerous language

Can there be anyone in the world more harmless than an Esperanto enthusiast? Probably not. Speakers of the international language Esperanto are mainly interested in languages, foreign cultures and world peace. However, since the first book of Esperanto was published in 1887 they have lived through recurrent periods of intolerance and repression.

This is the subject of Ulrich Lins’ book Dangerous Language whose new revised edition in Esperanto has just been published as La danĝera lingvo – Studo pri la persekutoj kontraŭ Esperanto. This book has also been translated into German (1988), Italian (1990), Russian (1999), Lithuanian (2005) and Korean (2013), besides an earlier draft into Japanese in 1975, and will soon appear in English.

DangeraLingvoDuEldonojDSC_3718Lins, Ulrich, La danĝera lingvo. Studo pri la persekutoj kontraŭ Esperanto (Gerlingen, 1988; YA.1989.a.13531). First edition (on the left); New revised edition (Rotterdam, 2016; YF.2016.a.19474) on the right.

 The last century was no less bloody and bellicose than earlier ones, but it was also the century of Esperanto, whose speakers represented an idealistic view that all peoples, languages and cultures were of equal value, a view apparently seldom shared by national leaders. From the earliest days of Esperanto, governments were quick to see potential dangers to their authority in the message spread by Esperanto.

As early as February 1895, when the language still had its base in the Russian Empire, the magazine La Esperantisto  was blocked by the censor because it included an article by Leo Tolstoy, an enthusiastic supporter of Esperanto.

LaEsperantisto1895 La Esperantisto. February issue with Tolstoy’s article Prudento au Kredo? P.P. 4939

In Nazi Germany the authorities immediately understood that the internationalism, pacifism and equality which went hand in hand with Esperanto were the exact opposite of everything proclaimed by the Nazi ideal of a superior “Aryan” race destined to rule over other “Untermenschen” (“subhumans”). Added to this, in Mein Kampf (Vol.1, Chap.XI) Hitler expressed his belief that Esperanto would be used by the Jews to achieve world domination. When the Jews were deported from Warsaw, the Gestapo received specific orders from Berlin to search for the descendants of Zamenhof (the creator of Esperanto). All three of his children died in the concentration camps. The only survivors were his daughter-in-law and her teenage son, Zamenhof's grandson, who still lives today in Paris.

In Japan, too, the imperial police force immediately recognized the progressive (and potentially communist) tendencies of the Esperanto movement. In the first decade of the 20th century the police began to take an interest in the relationship between anarchists and Esperantists, and in 1934 the Japanese Proletarian Esperantist Union was shut down.

It is harder to understand the reasoning behind the persecution of Esperanto speakers in the USSR under Stalin. Immediately after the Russian Revolution there was a flowering of languages in the new Soviet Union. New alphabets were created, all minority languages were recognized, and there was support for Esperanto.

However, in Stalin’s time Soviet society underwent a period of closing in on itself and suspecting everything which potentially had links with other countries. Esperantists were people who corresponded with foreigners, or at least were in a position to do so. As Sergej Kuznecov wrote in the afterword to the previous edition of La danĝera lingvo, the treatment of Esperanto speakers can be seen as the measure of the totalitarianism of every regime. In the purges of the 1930s, many outstanding Esperantists perished even though they were sincere communists: Yevgeny Mikhalski, Vladimir Varankin, Ernest Drezen  and others too numerous to list here.

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 Books by Drezen,  Varankin and Mihalski from the British Library’s Esperanto collection.

La danĝera lingvo describes in rather less detail the persecutions against Esperanto and its speakers in Spain, Portugal, Italy and other European regimes. Esperantists were even executed in those countries, most notably in Cordoba in Spain, when the Fascist army occupied the town in 1937 and shot all members of the local Esperanto group.

The difficulties in reviving Esperanto organizations after Stalin’s death are described in detail by Lins. The Association of Soviet Esperantists (ASE) was founded in 1979, but remained under strict government control for years. Even in some Western countries it was necessary to wait for the collapse of former regimes; the Portuguese association was only revived in 1972.

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Memoirs about ASE and SEJM (Soviet Esperantist Youth Movement) by prominent  Esperantists in the British Library’s collection.

In 2017 UNESCO will be commemorating the centenary of the death of Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof. It is fitting that as that year approaches we should also remember the persecutions which have taken place against Esperanto and Esperanto speakers over the past century.

It is surprising now to realise that Zamenhof’s concerns were not primarily linguistic. He was far more interested in bringing an end to wars between different peoples, and in creating conditions for international understanding and peace. He lived through a period of pogroms and major wars in Europe, and it is not by chance that the present period of increasing xenophobia and intolerance in many parts of Europe and the world reminds us of events in Zamenhof’s lifetime. This shows yet again that the road leading towards progress and civilization is neither straight nor easy, but Esperanto remains a tool of vital importance in making Zamenhof's vision of world peace and mutual understanding a reality.

Renato Corsetti, Professor Emeritus of Psycholinguistics, La Sapienza University Rome, former president of the World Esperanto Association, General Secretary of the Academy of Esperanto.

Further reading

Garvía Soto, Roberto. Esperanto and its rivals : the struggle for an international language. (Philadelphia, [2015]) m15/.11262

Richardson, David. Learning and Using the International Language. (Washington, 2004). YD.2007.a.8182

 

 

12 December 2016

'An absolutely essential handyman and busybody in Russian literature’…Nikolai Karamzin (1766-1826)

These were the words in which Andrew Field, in his The Complection of Russian Literature (1971; X.981/2277) described Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin, who was born 250 years ago on 12 December 1766, and without whom Russian literature and the Russian language would never have developed as they did.

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 Portrait of the writer and historian N.M.Karamzin (1818)  by Tropinin (From Wikimedia Commons)

 Ironically, perhaps, he was not of Russian but of Tatar stock, as his name indicates, though his father was an officer in the Russian army, serving in the Simbirsk governate at the time of his son’s birth in the village of Znamenskoe. However, young Nikolai did not remain in the provinces but was sent to study in Moscow and later moved to St. Petersburg, where he made his first literary contacts and began to experiment with translations into Russian. Among these was Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (1787), one of the first of his plays to appear in Russian. In the introduction, his first foray into historical literary criticism, Karamzin acclaimed Shakespeare’s capacity to fathom human nature, and noted that the average Russian reader was wholly unfamiliar with English literature, a situation which he set out to remedy. He also produced a new translation of Lessing’s Emilia Galotti (1788) which was successfully staged in Moscow.

He also identified another serious gap in the reading material available in Russian: literature for children. In 1785 he launched Detskoe chtenie dlia serdtsa i razuma (Children’s Readings for Heart and Mind), the first Russian periodical for young readers. Containing lively articles on science, history and geography as well as stories and fables, many translated from German, it drew on Karamzin’s earlier experience as an educational publisher. Together with his co-editor Aleksandr Petrov, he also included translations of tales by Madame de Genlis and prose versions of James Thomson’s The Seasons.

In 1789 Karamzin decided to embark on extensive travels through Germany, France, Switzerland and England, which would later provide material for his Pis’ma ruskago puteshestvennika (Tales of a Russian Traveller). It is available to English-speaking readers in an excellent translation by Andrew Kahn (Oxford, 2003; YC.2004.a.2638), with an introduction in which he points out that the book `represents an ambitious attempt to join Enlightenment discourses and literary modes…producing nothing less than an anthropology of the Enlightenment.’ Of special interest to such readers is his account of visiting London in 1790, including Hamlet at the Haymarket Theatre, `the lovely village of Hampstead’, Parliamentary elections and the Tower of London, where he records that `we were shown the axe with which Anne [sic; actually Jane] Grey’s head was cut off!!’.

Karamzin Traveller 1455.a.15

Pis'ma ruskago puteshestvennika  (Moskva, 1797; 1455.a.15

In his attempts to link Russia into a wider European literary tradition, Karamzin also experimented with novel-writing, though his efforts in this genre are, to modern tastes, less successful than his traveller’s tales, and more interesting for their contribution to language and style than their intrinsic merits. In the interest of greater suppleness and fluidity he started the process of introducing Gallicisms to replace Slavonic expressions and aid him in transmitting the high-flown elegance of Sentimentalism to Russian readers. Unfortunately the results smack less of Sentimentalism than sentimentality, and one of his most famous tales, Bednaia Liza (Poor Liza; 1792), ends in typically melodramatic style: `Liza’s mother heard of the dreadful death of her daughter, and her blood went cold from the horror – her eyes closed forever. – The cottage became deserted. Now the wind howls through it, and hearing this noise at night, superstitious villagers say: `There moans the dead one; there moans poor Liza!’ (tr. David Gasperetti; Three Russian tales of the eighteenth century: DeKalb, Illinois, 2012; YC.2012.a.13725).

 

Karamzin Aonidi 149.d.36

Aonidy, ili Sobranie raznykh novykh stikhotvorenii (St. Petersburg, 1797) 1491.d.36. 

However, if Karamzin was a less than distinguished novelist, he was a pioneer as a historian. This field was comparatively undeveloped until he began his twelve-volume Istoriia Gosudarstva Rosiiskago. After a successful career as an editor and publisher, launching the Moskovskii zurnal (Moscow Journal) in 1791 followed by the poetical almanac Aonidy (The Aonides; picture above) in collaboration with Derzhavin and Dmitriev, in 1803 he decided to retire to Simbirsk to concentrate on his new venture. Learning the reason for his withdrawal from public life, Tsar Alexander I invited him to Tver to read the first eight volumes. Not surprisingly, he was a strong advocate of autocracy, and his wish that `there should be no Poland under any shape or name’ strikes a startling and sinister note to modern readers. Yet these considerations should not detract from his achievement as one of the first Russian authors to gather and annotate historical materials systematically and thoroughly. Despite his rational Enlightenment views (he was also an active Freemason), Karamzin was not immune to the spirit of an age which enthusiastically devoured Scott’s historical novels and uncritically swallowed the Ossian forgeries, and as such was a man of his time whose glamourizing of the reign of Ivan III is typical of the period.

He did, however, express a great admiration for the attainments of Catherine the Great, and the British Library possesses a copy of a German translation by Johann Richter (picture below) in which he pays fervent tribute to her work as an innovator, reformer and patron of the arts and philanthropy.

Karamzin Lobrede 10790.aa.1

Lobrede auf Catharina die Zweyte; Riga, 1801: 10790.aa.1

Karamzin ended his days happily on 22 May 1826 at the Tauride Palace, where he had lived as a guest of the Tsar who had eagerly awaited the appearance of every new page of the histories. Though the conservative views which strongly influenced Alexander, such as his criticism of Speransky’s reforms, undoubtedly had a detrimental effect on the course of Russian political history, his accomplishments in forging links between Russia and the West and even giving its alphabet a new letter (ë) make him a figure of lasting significance and continuing interest.


Susan Halstead, Content Specialist (Humanities & Social Sciences), Research Services

 

09 December 2016

Vincent Cabot, a 16th-century Jurist from Toulouse

Vincent Cabot (c. 1560-1620) was a jurist from Toulouse who became a professor of canon and civil law at Orléans University before going back to Toulouse where he became President of the Parliament.

1 Cabot Tumulus tp
Title page of Vincent Cabot Reverendi in Christo Patris D. D. Michaelis Violæi... tumulus (Orléans, 1592) British Library 1230.c.32
.

The British Library holds two of his works, including his contribution to a collection of epitaphs in memory of Michel Viole, a Bible scholar who died in 1591 and was for thirty years abbot of Saint-Euverte of Orléans. The printed work, entitled Reverendi in Christo Patris D. D. Michaelis Violæi... tumulus, published by Saturnin and Fabien Hotot in Orléans in 1592, records eulogies read during the abbot’s four days funeral, led by Jean de l’Aubespine, Bishop of the city.

2 Cabot Tumulus 2
Hebrew inscription, and opening of Cabot’s funeral oration for Michel Viole, from Reverendi in Christo Patris D. D. Michaelis Violæi... tumulus.

Vincent Cabot’s Latin funeral oration, written in prose, is the first text of the compilation, and displays the author’s learning in honour of the deceased. The mise en page of the eulogy, with marginal references in italic, highlights Cabot’s learned references to Latin and Greek authors as well as the Scriptures.

3 Cabot Tumulus sonnets
Sonnets from Reverendi in Christo Patris D. D. Michaelis Violæi... tumulus

The whole collection of epitaphs is skilfully printed with different typescripts and ornamental woodcuts, and makes a creative use of italics and capitals, which highlight the wealth and variety of the contributions. A hundred scholars from Orléans have contributed pieces in Hebrew, Latin, Greek, French, Gascon, Flemish and Italian. The volume includes two well-designed fold-out pages displaying a tomb inscribed with epitaphs.

4 Cabot Tumulus fold-out
One of the fold-out pages from Reverendi in Christo Patris D. D. Michaelis Violæi... tumulus

Vincent Cabot’s Variarum Juris Publici et Privati Disputationum was printed in two distinct editions in Paris (by Claude de Monstr’oeil and Jean Riché) and Hanau (Germany) in 1598. The copy of the Paris edition recently acquired by the British library, preserved in its original white soft vellum binding, comes from the dispersal of the Early European collections of the Los Angeles Law library, which were sold at auction by Bonhams in London in March and May 2014.

5 Cabot Variarum tp
Title page of Vincent Cabot, Variarum Juris Publici et Privati Disputationum (Paris, 1598). RB.23.a.36826

Cabot’s prefatory epistle is dedicated to Petrus Faber, Pierre Du Faur de Saint-Jorry, who was president of theToulouse Parliament before Vincent Cabot, and called him back from Orléans to Toulouse as a law professor. Cabot’s work deals with contemporary political issues, including the relation between the monarchy and the Church (e.g. the role of kings in the election of bishops), and royal succession (e.g. the right of women to inherit the crown).

6 Cabot Variarum dedication
Dedication to Petrus Faber, from Variarum Juris Publici et Privati Disputationum

A further work by Cabot, Les Politiques was published posthumously in Toulouse in 1630 by Léonard Campistron, who dedicated the book to Cardinal Richelieu. Cabot makes a profuse use of lay and religious authorities, in particular Jean Bodin’s République and Niccolò Machiavelli. A learned scholar and jurist, Cabot is a pioneer of political science and promotes in his work a centralised and moderate monarchy.

Irène Fabry-Tehranchi, Curator Romance collections

7 Cabot Variarum index
Pages frrom Variarum Juris Publici et Privati Disputationum

07 December 2016

Commemorating the Russian Revolution

Last week the British Library announced some of our forthcoming cultural highlights for 2017. Among them is a major exhibition to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution. For the curators involved, this will be the culmination of many months of planning: deciding on the exhibition’s ‘storyline’ and selecting items from our rich collections to illustrate it, complemented by loans of artefacts from other institutions.

The exhibition will begin in the reign of the last Tsar, looking at social and political conditions in Russia in the early years of the 20th century, and exploring the growth of revolutionary movements. Exhibits will include the lavish album published to commemorate the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II and, at the other end of the political spectrum, a letter from Lenin (under the pseudonym ‘Jacob Richter’) applying for a reader’s ticket for the British Museum Library.

LR.25.c.20-Khodynka
Crowds celebrating the Coronation of Nicholas II from the album Les Solennités du saint couronnement... (St Petersburg, 1896). The scene here later turned to tragedy when there was a stampede for souvenir gifts, food and drink in which over 1,300 people were killed.

Among the items illustrating the Revolution itself, alongside images of events and key players, will be Order No. 1, published by the Petrograd Soviet in March 1917. This initiated a new era of soldier–officer relations, requiring officers to treat soldiers respectfully and giving soldiers the same rights as civilians when off duty, overturning centuries of traditional military discipline.

Order no. 1
Prikaz No. 1 (Order no. 1), 14 (1) March 1917. HS.74/1870

The Civil War which engulfed Russia in the aftermath of the Revolution is also examined, with material from both sides of the conflict. A striking White Army recruitment poster aimed at Muslim communities in the Caucasus is a reminder of the huge geographical, ethnic and linguistic scope of Russia and of the conflict that arose from the Revolution.

Recruiting Poster 1856.g.8.(30)
White Army recruituing poster, with text in four langauges: Russian, Arabic, Circassian and Nogay. 1856.g.8.(30)

The combination of War, Revolution and Civil War brought huge problems to Russia, and the tragedy of famine for people on all sides and none of the conflict. For many supporters – or perceived supporters – of the old order, the Revolution also led to exile from their homeland. Meanwhile the Bolsheviks were trying to consolidate and maintain power and to create and celebrate their new world. Drives for popular literacy and to encourage workers’ co-operation led to the creation of material such as a striking hand-painted and hand-lettered ‘wall newspaper’ produced by a local women’s committee in Yalta. It contains reports on their joint achievements, amateur poetry and stories intended to inspire and promote new communist values.

Ialtinskaia-delegatka-1927
Ialtinskaia delegatka (The Yalta Female Delegate), hand-lettered wall newspaper, 1927. The four women pictured are the main authors and artists.
Add MS 57556.

The Bolsheviks also hoped to export the revolution, and Socialist revolutionary movements flourished briefly in several European countries immediately after the First World War. At the same time, many of Russia’s former imperial possessions fought for independence from the new Russian state with greater or lesser degrees of success.

Red Army Alphabet World on Fire-Cup.401.g.25
Exporting Revolution: in this ‘Red Army Alphabet’ the letter G stands for the Russian word for ‘to burn’ (goret’). The picture caption reads: ‘The Earth burns with a fire / Lit by the worker’s hand.’ Dmitri Moor, Azbuka krasnoarmeitsa (Moscow, 1921). Cup.401.g.25

As well as the familiar figures and key players of the Revolution – the Romanovs, Rasputin, Lenin, Trotsky – the exhibition also seeks to convey the lives of ordinary people during these turbulent years, using quotations from contemporary diaries and letters. As the exhibition title, Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths, suggests, there are many sides to the story of the Revolution, and many aspects that have been mythologised by subsequent generations. We hope that our telling of that story, based on the most recent research, will introduce it to new audiences and bring a fresh perspective to those familiar with it.

The exhibition Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths will run from 28 April until 29 August 2017 in the PACCAR Gallery.

 

05 December 2016

The Brothers Jovanović National Library

In 1920 the Serbian Legation in London donated 250 small size unbound fascicles of Serbian literature to the British Museum Library. This donation was a welcome addition to the Library Serbian collections, which then consisted hardly of a few hundreds Serbian literary works.

These issues were part of a collection of Serbian literature published in Pančevo, a small town in the then Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, from 1871 to 1912. The works were published by the Brothers Jovanović, Kamenko (1843-1916) and Pavle (1847-1914), printers and booksellers from Pančevo. In 1870 the Brothers Jovanović established a Serbian printing-press, and in 1872 a bookshop in their hometown. Their aim was to publish and sell Serbian school textbooks and literature, the long awaited educational and cultural needs of the Serbian people in Austro-Hungary.

The Brothers Jovanović’s bookshop was the first major Serbian publishing bookshop in the Monarchy, and with the bookshops funded earlier in Belgrade, in the neighbouring Princedom of Serbia, were the first to establish modern Serbian publishing and book trade.

Between 1871 and 1912 the Brothers Jovanović published about 400 Serbian titles of which about 100 were school textbooks.
The collection of works donated to the Library had been published in the series called: “The Brothers Jovanović National Library” from 1880 to 1890.

NBBJCover

 Front cover of a volume in the series. The Brothers Jovanović National Library. Jovan Rajić, Battle of Dragon and Eagles. (Pančevo, 1884). British Library 012265.e.5/44.

Above is the layout of the cover of the Brothers Jovanović National Library series: their bookshop was shown here as a cultural edifice built on the pantheon of Serbian and world literature presented and promoted in this series. Front of their national library are the Corinthian columns adorned in ribbons bearing the names of the greats of Serbian and world literature (the text in Cyrillic on the left column reads: Dositej, Kraszewski, Hugo, the right column bear the names of: Njegoš, Gogol and Goethe. The name of the series is inscribed across the arc which sits on the columns. In the left-hand corner is a roundel portrait of Dositej Obradović (1739-1811), a Serbian philosopher and writer, and in the right-hand corner is a roundel portrait of Prince Bishop of Montenegro Petar II Petrović Njegoš (1813-51).

The Brothers Jovanović published literature in affordable paper-back issues in small octavo format, printed in a small font. The majority of works in the series were made up of separately published issues. These were published in non-consecutive instalments usually over a several-month period. Up to 24 issues were produced per year and in total the series comprises 216 such issues published from 1880 to 1890.

The set of 250 issues donated to the Library also includes issues published by the Brothers Jovanović’s bookshop from 1871 to 1912, which were subsequently added to the Brothers Jovanović National Library series (they are numbered in the series from 217 to 348), when the bookshop was sold to the new owners in 1913. This set of 250 issues is incomplete as 11 issues are missing.

The Library’s set was bound in 124 volumes placed at shelfmarks 012265.e.5/1-149 and a number of works are bound together. It is the only single set held in a British public collection, and one of the most complete in Britain and Serbia. The Library’s set holds 158 separate works. The whole collection is described in 168 catalogue records

This collection has a historical significance for the British Library as the donation notably boosted its existing collections of Serbian literature. Today this collection is relevant for the study and research into the development of modern Serbian literacy, language and literature. It is a very useful survey of primary sources for the development of Serbian literature.

Radicevic

Frontispiece and title page with the author’s portrait and his autograph. Branko Radičević, Poems. (Pančevo, 1880). British Library 012265.e.5/95.

The collection contains works of the major Serbian writers of the Enlightment, Classicism and Romanticism who, in their lexical and stylistic innovation, contributed greatly to the development and promotion of modern Serbian literary language. This new literary form was based on the principles of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić’s language reform.

Pucic
Frontispiece and title page with the author’s portrait. Medo Pucić, Poems. (Pančevo, 1879 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/101.

Đorđe Popović-Daničar, editor of the Brothers Jovanović National Library series,  saw that the modern writers of all periods and those who wrote in Russo-Slavonic and in Slavonic-Serbian were represented in the series thus showing the continuity in Serbian literature. He contributed greatly to the series by writing introductory texts, compiling works of lesser known writers, translating and transliterating from Russo-Slavonic and in Slavonic-Serbian into the contemporary Serbian language and the new orthography, and by translating from a number of major European languages. Popović-Daničar was remembered as the first translator of Don Quijote from Spanish into Serbian.

The presentation of Serbian national poetry is another strong feature of this collection.

Boj na Kosovu

 Frontispiece. From Battle of Kosovo. (Pančevo, 1880 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/121.

A great prominence of Serbian national poetry in the series pointed not only to the significance and influence of spoken national language for the creation of the new literary language, but it also reflected the contemporary national and political aspirations and struggles in the Balkans and the rest of Europe of that period, leading up to the First World War.

Hajduci
Frontispiece. From Serbian Outlaws in National Poems. (Pančevo, 1882 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/110.

The fact that in this series the Brothers Jovanović ventured to showcase Serbian literature, together with other works of world literature in Serbian translation, was surely a sign of confidence and trust they had for the future of the Serbian literature and its readers.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

Reference:

Žarko Vojnović, Iz Sparte svetlost, to jest, Život i podvizi Kamenka i Pavla braće Jovanovića: ujedno i bibliografija izdanja. (Pančevo, 2010). YF.2014.a.12874

 

01 December 2016

Ukrainians Mark 70 Years of AUGB

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), an academic conference was held earlier this month at the Association’s Central Office in London. Academics from both the UK and Ukraine considered various historical aspects ranging from prominent personalities to émigré publications to highlighting a rich array of data and source archival documents.

AUGBConferenceBLOG

Speakers at the conference (Photo by Ihor Polataiko, reproduced by kind permission of the AUGB)

The origins of the AUGB go back to 1945 when Ukrainians serving in the Polish Armed Forces under British command came up with the idea of creating an official body to cater for their ethnic and spiritual needs. With the help of the Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association, based in London’s Sussex Gardens, they coordinated activities from late August 1945 up to the AUGB’s inaugural General Meeting in Edinburgh in January 1946. A Central Office was purchased in March 1947 which provided a base from which to help incoming Ukrainians settle in Britain.

In early 1949 an Invalids Fund was also established after the British Government decided (December 1948) to transport some 300 sick and injured Ukrainian former prisoners of war to Germany (and from there back to the USSR to face almost certain death). The decision was ultimately reversed in the face of Ukrainians threatening all-out strike action in protest, though the London Times of 30 December 1948 suggested that it was the hunger strike of the individuals concerned, coupled with the ‘repugnant’ nature of the government’s decision, that ‘naturally’ aroused objections among ‘ordinary Englishmen’. During that year alone, AUGB members donated a shilling a week to raise over £17,000 - the equivalent of well over £1.3 million today. This enabled the purchase of a property in Chiddingfold, Surrey, to provide care for those who were unable/unfit to work, or who simply required respite care. The property also accommodated summer youth camps until the 1960s and subsequently became a residential care home until its closure in 2012.

Over 300 Branches of the Association were created in the late 1940s but this number became substantially reduced by the mid-1950s as Ukrainians settled in closer proximity to each other in major towns and cities. Within these clusters they formed amateur cultural groups – choirs, dance ensembles, orchestras, theatre groups  - and also collected funds to purchase community centres.

UkrainianSongsBlogKurliak

 From the collection of 40 postcards Ukrains’ka Pisnia (Ukrainian Song; London, 1969)

As AUGB activities expanded, the AUGB Library (1947), the Association of Ukrainian Women (1948) and the Association of Ukrainian Teachers and Educators (1955) were established. The last coordinated community nurseries and language schools for a growing second generation. To facilitate consistency the AUGB published practical guidelines (in 1955) on methods of education, notably in four volumes of Materiialy Vykhovannia i Navchannia (Educational and Teaching Materials) dedicated to different aspects of Sunday school teaching.

I am often asked what drove that first generation of Ukrainians to be so generous with their time and the little money that they earned. The answer lies among the many resolutions adopted during the Association’s Annual General Meetings, illustrated by this example from 1948: “The AUGB, as a non-party generally-national organisation, calls on all Ukrainians to work together, irrespective of faith and political persuasion, to attain our ultimate goal – a Free, Independent and Sovereign State of the Ukrainian Nation”.

This love of Ukraine made the preservation of language, culture, and devotion to the homeland an important goal. Amongst other things it inspired regular publications of: a newspaper from November 1945 to the present, initially Nash Klych (‘Our call’) and then from spring 1947 Ukrains'ka Dumka (‘The Ukrainian Thought’; LOU.1165 [1994]); an annual calendar booklet, Kalendarets' ukraintsia u Velykii Brytanii (1947-2004; P.P.2458.lo.); a satirical magazine, Osa (‘Wasp’) (1947-1948); an English-language quarterly The Ukrainian Review (1954-2000; P.P.4842.dns.) and a school children’s magazine, Iuni Druzi (‘Young Friends’; 1955-1984; P.P.5992.gan.).

OSABLOGKURLIAKBi-weekly Osa (Wasp),  issue 1/46 1947

The latter was supplemented by the publication of children’s books, such as the alphabet and early reading text-book Bukvar (1958), or popular national tales, such as ‘Grandad’s Turnip’ (1954-55), or indeed the delightful narrative poems of the exceptional Leonid Poltava – Zhuchok-Shcherbachok (‘The little beetle Shcherbachok’; W.P.9391/3.), Slon po Afrytsi khodyv (‘The elephant walked through Africa’; 1955; W.P.9391/2) and others.

PoltavaBooksBlogBooks by Leonid Poltava from the British Library’s Collections

The books were published predominantly in Ukrainian but there were exceptions. Perhaps of particular note was the publication of Song out of Darkness, a collection of poems by the national poet, Taras Shevchenko translated by Vera Rich  to mark the centenary of the poet’s death, which we are now working on to update and republish.

SongOutOfDArknessTitlepage Frontispiece and title-page of Song out of Darkness (London, 1961)11303.bb.3.

The AUGB’s Library and Archive was also named after the Ukrainian bard. Today it works closely with the British Library and its collection of over 35,000 books is open to all students, academics and casual visitors interested in studying Ukrainian diaspora publications.

HOLODOMORCOVERBLOGCover of the catalogue Holodomor 1932-33 movoiu dokumentiv (London, 2003; YF.2012.a.16782) published for the exhibition commemorating 70 years of the Great Famine in Ukraine

As Ukrainians celebrate the 25th anniversary of the independence referendum vote of 1 December 1991 and simultaneously focus on events in Ukraine over the past three years (notably the annexation of the Crimea and the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine), we continue to face fresh challenges, adapt and seek new ways of developing, communicating and working with our members and the wider community. Our newspaper, website and social media aim to bring news and events to wider audiences and promote a greater understanding, not only of our heritage, but the contribution that we can make to academic research and cultural diversity.

Fedir Kurlak, AUGB CEO