Northern Illinois University Press

Elysian Fields

A Book of Memory

V. S.  Yanovsky

Translated by  Isabella  Yanovsky

Foreword by  Marc  Raeff

The great Russian emigration is dying out. One after the other, classics and epigones depart, vanish: the cemeteries have opened wide their brotherly embrace. Some have come to rest around Paris or Nice, others in New York or California.

The bugle resounds:
...and whose fate it is
to fall in the steppes,
Almighty God will remember...
Here is Berdyaev, a blue beret over his grey lion's mane, convulsively biting on a stubby empty cigarholder; there Khodasevich, nervously dealing the cards with his forever ailing, bandaged, greenish fingers; Fedotov, tweezing his small professorial beard, holding forth in a soft, guttural, yet convincing voice; Fondaminsky, looking like a Georgian, with gusto inviting us to comment on the paper that has just been read; the greying Bunin, gaunt, in tails, with difficulty making himself understood in French.
Where are they?

So begins Elysian Fields: A Book of Memory, V. S. Yanovsky's fascinating memoir of life in expatriate Paris between the wars. A refuge for intellectual, artistic, and political exiles from all over the world, the protean Paris of the 1920s and 1930s was also the home of numerous Russian émigrés, who had left their homeland as a result of the Revolution and the Civil War. This "Russian Paris" became for the émigrés the source of their cultural and spiritual sustenance.

As an émigré himself, Yanovsky was both witness to and participant in the creative life of the period, and he paints a compelling picture of those difficult and exciting years. Recalling all the great and not-so-great figures who made up Russian Paris, he captures their creative élan as well as their personal idiosyncrasies. But while Yanovsky is often outspoken in his opinions and combative in his judgments, he is never unfair. His is a very personal and beautifully wrought remembrance of time past. With the artist's consummate ability to transcend the inevitable processes of death and time, Yanovsky renders a brief moment of history as he vividly portrays the Russian émigrés and recaptures that air of bittersweet freedom so characteristic of Russian Paris.

(1987) 329 pp., illus.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-119-3
cloth $32.00

Table of Contents

Foreword by Marc Raeff
1. Boris Poplavsky
2. Felsen
3. G. Fedotov
4. I. Fondaminsky
5. Adamovich, Khodasevich et al.
6. Sundays at the Merezhkovskys'
7. Our Philosophers
8. Mother Marie
9. The Union of Writers and Poets
10. Meetings
11. Newspapers and Journals
Persons Mentioned in the Text
Journals and Literary Groups of the Emigration

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-119-3
cloth $32.00