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The Russian Jerusalem [Paperback]

Elaine Feinstein
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

29 May 2008
Beginning in present-day St Petersburg, "The Russian Jerusalem" explores the landscape of twentieth century Russian literature. In this evocative autobiographical novel, distinguished poet, translator, novelist and biographer Elaine Feinstein moves among the dead poets of Stalin's Russia with the poet Marina Tsvetaeva as her Virgil, mingling with the ghosts of writers such as Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Osip Mandelstam and Joseph Brodsky. These imaginary encounters are interspersed with new poems by Feinstein. The author, herself of Russian descent, reconstructs the lives and fates of Russian, often Jewish, writers during the long age of Soviet terror, re-establishing them at the heart of the European tradition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd (29 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857549104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857549102
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13.6 x 21.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 783,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'This is an astonishing, evocative, terrifying book. The writer moveslike a ghost amongst the dead of Russia's Silver Age, poets all, asthey lived, wrote, hoped and died through Stalin's purges of thethirties. They spring from the grave to charm and plead with us, astheir author - herself of Russian descent, and one the finest of ourliving poets - restores them to folk memory. The writing's vigorous yetexquisite - the story is gripping. This drastic, dreadful time in worldaffairs should not be forgotten and now won't be. One is, quite simply,grateful.' - FAY WELDON. 'In this fascinating, lyrical meditation on literature, politics, suffering and friendship, Elaine Feinstein - a biographer of poets and a poet of the first rank herself - takes us on a richly imagined journey through a lost literary archipelago, and reconstructs the lives and fates of Russian, often Jewish, writers during the long age of Soviet terror. Combining family history, travels through modern Russia and very personal encounters with famous ghosts, Feinstein evokes, throughpoetry and prose, both the inferno of cruelty and persecutions, and a golden Jerusalem of creativity, talent and intense literary bonds. This is a moving, original work, for which Feinstein has created a selection of poems worthy of the predecessors she admires.' - EVA HOFFMAN.'All poets are Jews, said Marina Tsvetaeva. Elaine Feinstein, Britain's most distinguished Jewish poet, was her first translator into English and has a wonderful wiry lyricism of her own, influenced both by Russian poetry and by Charles Olson and the Black Mountain poets. She has written here a unique blend of poetry, history and personal memoir, a descent into the heartbreaking and ground breaking vistas of Russian Jewry, and Russian literary figures of the twentieth century. The poets of genius whom she did not know alive, she knows equally intimately in the best way in which one poet knows another - by learning, reading, studying, translating. The book opens with her memories of renting a flat in a rundown quarter of St Petersberg in 2005, and also with Marina Tsetaeva accepting, as Virgil accepted for Dante, the role of guide to the underworld of colourful and talented figures Feinstein has known in her rich literary life, both in Russia, London and Cambridge.' - RUTH PADEL.

About the Author

ELAINE FEINSTEIN grew up in Leicester. In 1990 she received an Honorary D.Lit. from the University there. She read English at Newnham College, Cambridge. She has published over thirty books, including fiction and biography, and written for radio and television and reviews for The Times and Poetry Review. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1980. In 1990 she received a Cholmondeley Award and was given an Honorary DLit from the University of Leicester. She has received three Arts Council Translation awards. Carcanet publish her Selected Poems.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting... 7 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This Dantesque trawl into the underworld of 1930s Russia has to be give credit for its originality and daring in attempting to fuse prose and poetry. Have to say the poetry did distract somewhat from the narrative for me, and I did get a little lost with all the unfamiliar Russian names, but overall this is immensely enjoyable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The kind of book that lingers 1 Dec 2011
By L. Moyse - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The narrative here is seamless and quiet, quiet in contrast to the lives it deals with and the events surrounding those lives. It reads like a personal history of many of the great names of Twentieth Century
Russian literature, Pasternak, Ahkmatova, Babel, Osip Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva and Joseph Brodsky, a history whose impetus is great affection for its subjects and an intricate reading of their works. Feinstein creates the atmosphere of Revolutionary Russia in an impressionistic style, never dwelling in lurid detail on purges, arrests, exiles and murders; instead, she provides little details that illuminate the big picture of terror on the lives of the poets. The book's section 15, entitled 'Peredelkino, May 1939', discussing the arrest and incarceration of Issac Babel, is typical of Feinstein's skill with telling detail and how she lets the history of the times permeate without bludgeoning the reader with all too familiar events. We read the section and 'get it', feel the dread and isolation without editorial or sermon. The entire book covers its subjects like a soft shroud, not a rain of nails. It's been two months since I finished this good little book and it it stays with me. I have a feeling it will for long time.
5.0 out of 5 stars a novel novel 10 Jan 2014
By Kelly Cherry - Published on
This is a marvelous and inventive novel, entwining autobiography, biography, fiction, and poetry while moving back and forth in time. I reviewed it for the Women's Review of Books. Anyone with an interest in Russian poets, in Stalin's injustice to Jews, in the underground culture of the literati, in the love life of poets will want to read it.
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