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This review is taken from PN Review 61, Volume 14 Number 5, May - June 1988.

THE FACTS BEHIND THE FATE Elaine Feinstein, A Captive Lion: the life of Marina Tsvetayevá (Hutchinson) £15.95
Selected Poems of Marine Tsvetayeva, translated by Elaine Feinstein (Hutchinson) £6.95 pb

Prior to 1971 the poetry of Marina Tsvetayeva was known only to professional Slavists and in émigré circles; further afield she was merely the ciphered addressee of the acrostic prologue to Pasternak's Lieutenant Schmidt and the dedicatee of Rilke's late 'Elegie (an Marina Zwetajewa-Efron)'. Footnotes sufficed to clarify why she should figure from time to time in memoirs and reminiscences, and a glossy Paris studio photograph was all that could be found to put a face to the name. Had it not been for Elaine Feinstein (and those whose assistance made her translations possible), we might still be without the wherewithal to claim acquaintance with Tsvetayeva beyond these fragmentary indications of her life and work. Yet a mere generation later - largely because of that pioneering Penguin collection - we possess what almost amounts to an embarrassment of riches: an expanded selection from the poet (OUP, here reprinted), a dual-text edition of a volume unavailable in the Soviet Union, a Selected Prose, a pictorial biography, two critical studies by Simon Karlinsky and as full an account of the events of Tsvetayeva's life as perhaps anyone could supply or wish for, courtesy of - appropriately - Elaine Feinstein. Though there remain gaps in our knowledge - an edition of the correspondence would be especially welcome in this connection - a latent presence has assumed proportions not only comparable with, but threatening to overwhelm, the received idea of Mayakovsky, Akhmatova, Pasternak, Blok and Mandelstam, the modern Russian poets Tsvetayeva herself most ...

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