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Author Information: Marina Tsvetaeva

 
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1892-1941

Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow in 1892, of a father who became famous as the founder of what is now the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and a pianist mother who wanted her daughter to have the artistic career she herself had renounced. At nineteen she married a member of a family which had been associated with the revolutionary terrorist organisation The People’s Will, by whom she had two daughters, one of whom died of starvation during the Civil War of 1818–20. In May 1922 she left Russia to join her husband, who had served in the White Army, in Prague, where, living in relative poverty and writing constantly – including most of The Ratcatcher – she gave birth to a son. In 1925 she moved with her son to Paris, where she completed and published The Ratcatcher. She returned to Russia with her son in 1939, at the height of the purges, to rejoin her husband who, unknown to her, had begun to work for the NKVD. Her sister, who had not emigrated, had been arrested and sent to a camp; soon after her return to Russia her husband was arrested and executed; her surviving daughter was also arrested and sent to the camps. Unpublished in Russia, she had few friends and little income. In 1941, in the desolate Tatar town of Yelabuga to which she had been evacuated, Tsvetaeva hanged herself. Soon afterwards her son was conscripted into the army and shot.

The extent of Tsvetaeva’s oeuvre and true stature emerged only in the 1970s. She wrote some dozen books of short poems, as many long poems, eight plays, and numerous prose works. Much of her work was written and first published in emigration.

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