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THE DYNAMICS OF ADAPTATION: PASTERNAK'S SECOND BIRTH

Alexander  ZHOLKOVSKY (USC, Los Angeles)


The textual intercourse we will now examine is, on the surface, different from the Bulgakov-Olesha "duet," but, in a deeper sense, similar to it. Focusing on just one author, one period of his work, and one poem, we will be able to envision that poem as a product of the poet's "triadic" interaction with the environment. To spell out the underlying similarity with the Bulgakov-Olesha-Bulgakov exchange, we could say that Pasternak's 1920s persona became aware of the 'feedback' it received from the prevailing Soviet culture circa 1930 and 'responded' with the 1931 text. But the emphasis here, unlike in Chapter 7, will fall on the third, 'synthetic,' stage of the process: the results of the poet's internal change triggered by outsidepressure.

 

1. Pasternak and the early thirties

A conversation about apartments.

Pasternak's dialogue with the times and with himself did not occur in a vacuum. His 1931 'response' can be better understood as position-taking vis-a-vis not only the official establishment but other fellow-travelers as well, in particular Mandelstam.

When in the fall of 1933 the Mandelstams finally moved into the writers' condominium, Pasternak was one of the first to visit.

"As he was leaving, he lingered..., saying how wonderful it was: 'Now you have an apartment, you will be able to write poetry'... 'Did you hear what he said?' M. asked me. He was furious," the poet's widow remembers. It is "in response to [this] almost casual remark by Pasternak" that Mandelstam wrote his poem "beginning 'The apartment is quiet as paper'."[1]

Developing her idea of the two poets as "antipodes," Nadezhda Mandelstam argues that their different attitudes toward apartments (and desks) were emblematic of more profound professional differences.

"Pasternak could not do without his writing table--he could only work with his pen in hand. M. composed his verse in his head, while walking, and only nded to sit down briefly to copy out the result."

"Seeking for a stable life, particularly in the material sense, Pasternak knew that the path to it lay through literature, membership in the literary community... M. always shied away." "[Pasternak] was a domesticated creature... attached to the comforts of home and his dacha... [O]ur literary bigwigs understoood him quite well and they would be glad to come to terms with him... M. was a nomad, a wanderer, shunned by the very walls of Moscow houses..."

"Moscow had belonged to Pasternak from the time of his birth... and he remained in possession of his heritage..." "Pasternak would have liked to erect a protective wall of the State between the intelligentsia and the people.[2] It was simply not in M.'s nature to bank... on the State with its miracles... he placed no hopes in its patronage."

"The world of literature treated them accordingly, smiling on Pasternak... and sking... to destroy M...." "As early as 1927 I... sa[id] to Pasternak: 'Watch out, or they'll adopt you.'... At the end of their lives both of them acted in ways quite at variance with... their previous stands. While Pasternak... put himself in open conflict with the Soviet literary world, M. was ready to seek rapprochement with it--only... too late."

But in the early 1930s, the two still found themselves in very different relations to Soviet reality. A grotesque variation on this triangle of forces was the famous telephone conversation (in June, 1934) between Stalin and Pasternak about the arrested Mandelstam; incidentally, it began with Pasternak's complaints about the noise in his communal apartment (N. Mandelstam 1976: 146; Fleishman 1990: 180).

According to his widow, Mandelstam's "The Apartment..." was a "rejoinder... occasioned only by... [the] unfinished conversation in the hallway"--unlike another poem, "occasioned by some lines of Pasternak's" in his book of verse Second Birth (1931-1932).[3] But that same collection contained a text that could, indeed, have served as the starting point of the two poets' dialogue about apartments. The third fragment of the longer poem Waves,[4] "I Want [To Go] Home, Into the Hugeness...," read as follows:

 

I 1 Mne khochetsia domoi, v ogromnost'

Kvartiry, navodiashchei grust'.

Voidu, snimu pal'to, opomnius',

Ogniami ulits ozarius'.

 

2 Peregorodok tonkorebrost'

Proidu naskvoz', proidu, kak svet.

Proidu, kak obraz vkhodit v obraz,

I kak predmet sechet predmet.

 

3 Puskai pozhiznennost' zadachi,

Vrastaiushchei v zavety dnei,

Zovetsia zhizniiu sidiachei,--

I po takoi grushchu po nei.

 

II 4 Opiat' znakomost'iu napeva

Pakhnut derev'ia i doma.

Opiat' napravo i nalevo

Poidet khoziainichat' zima.

 

5 Opiat' k obedu na progulke

Nastupit temen', prosto strast'.

Opiat' nauchit pereulki

Okhulki na ruki ne klast'.

 

6 Opiat' povaliat s neba vziatki,

Opiat' ukroet k utru vikhr'

Osin podsledstvennykh desiatki

Suknom sugrobov snegovykh.

 

III 7 Opiat' opavshei serdtsa myshtsei

Uslyshu i vlozhu v slova,

Kak ty polzesh' i kak dymish'sia,

Vstaesh' i stroish'sia, Moskva.

 

8 I ia primu tebia, kak upriazh',

Tekh radi budushchikh bezumstv,

Cto ty, kak stikh, menia zazubrish',

Kak byl', zapomnish' naizust'.

 

I 1 I want [to go] home, into the hugeness

Of the apartment inducing sadness.

I will go in, take off my coat, come to,/

Become illuminated by the lights of the streets.

 

2 The thin-ribbedness of the partitions

I will pass all through, pass, like light.

I will pass, as an image penetrates an image

And as an object cuts [cross-sects] an object.

 

3 Let the lifetimeness of the task

Growing into the testaments of the days

Be called a sedentary life,--

I long after it even the way it is.

 

II 4 Again, of the familiarity of their song

The trs and houses will give off a smell.

Again, right and left,

Winter will start bossing around.

 

5 Again, during a walk before dinner,

Darkness will fall, real scary.

Again it will teach the side-streets

To be no fools with their hands.

 

6 Again, from the sky, bribes will start falling,

Again, the whirlwind will cover, towards morning,

Tens of asp-trs under investigation

With the cloth of snowdrifts.

 

III 7 Again, with [my] heart's slumped/collapsed muscle

I will hear and put into words

How you crawl and how you send up smoke,

Rise up and build yourself, Moscow.

 

8 And I will accept you like a harness,

For the sake of those future madnesses,

That you will cram me, like a verse,

Will learn me by heart like a true story.

 

The third fragment of Waves (hereafter abbreviated as IWH) instantiates with remarkable completeness the 'adoptive complex' imputed to Pasternak by Nadezhda Mandelstam. Beneath his love for his apartment (albeit communal), the desk, and the Moscow cityscape, one discerns an acceptance of strict socialist discipline in exchange for the recognition of contemporaries and history. Pasternak's stance becomes especially clear when compared with Mandelstam's, which latter underlies that poet's another possible "rejoinder" to IWH: "Leningrad."[5] Compare:

 

Pasternak (IWH)

Mandelstam ("Leningrad,"

"The Apartment...")


home, into the hugeness of

the apartment inducing

sadness; again... the smell

of familiarity

 

I came back to my city,

familiar to the point of tears;

hurry up, recognize; the

apartment's... quiet

I will go in,... pass through

I will find the dead men's addresses

 

the lights of the streets

 

Leningrad river lamps

the thin-ribbedness of the partitions

 

I live on a black back staircase;

the damned walls are thin

the lifetimeness... sedentary life

 

there's nowhere left to run to

 

growing into the testaments

of the days; you... rise up

and build yourself, Moscow

 

ration-books; some honest

traitor; comber of collective-

farm flax

a walk before dinner

 

get busy and gulp down the

fish-oil... egg-yolk

 

darkness... real scary, will

teach the side-streets to be

no fools with their hands

 

a bell ripped from its meat;

a stream of old fear

 

winter; from the sky, bribes

will start falling; the cloth

of snowdrifts

 

this December day

thin-ribbedness; [my] heart's

slumped muscle

 

stabs at my temple; such

tortuous malice; stream of...fear

I will hear and put into

words... for the sake of...

that you will cram me, like a

verse

 

teaching executioners how to

chirp

Moscow,... for the sake of

those future...

 

Petersburg! I don't want to

die, not yet; I will find the

dead men's addresses

 

lifetimeness; under

investigation; I will accept

you like a harness

 

clanking the fetters of my door

chains; and I, like an idiot, am

forced to play tunes on a comb;

it's time to stamp [your] boots

 

Pasternak does sound conciliatory vis-a-vis the 'harness/fetters' imposed by Stalinist dictatorship, but his tone is hardly that of "some honest traitor," "some comber of collective-farm flax" of the kind scornfully dismissed by Mandelstam. Rather, IWH offers a poetic expression of a deliberately ambiguous position. Ambiguity, however dubious morally, has always been a staple fare of poetry. In what follows, we will see how IWH, remaining within the bounds of Pasternakian poetics, succeeds in reconciling the contradictory ideological demands of the moment and thus functions as Pasternak's response to new realities.

 

Temptation.

The Second Birth collection marked, as heralded by its title, a profound change in Pasternak's poetic self-image. Following the early period, characterized by the young persona's ecstatic fusion with the universe, and anticipating the self-sacrificial Christian tenor of his later poetry, the 1931 book reads in retrospect as a bridge between the two.[6] It implements a fellow-traveler's honest endeavor to join the socialist process[7] and his newly found readiness to lower his esthetic standards. All this, the poet admits, is dictated by "the power of the same old temptation:/ In the hope of glory and [common] good,/ To look at things without fear".[8]

 

"For a while I am going to write badly--from my previous point of view-- until I get accustomed to the novelty of the themes and propositions... [F]or a while I shall write like a cobbler. Solely... in mediocrity's distorting mirror,... am [I] obliged... to reject Demyan Bedny... I prefer him to most of you..." (Pasternak 1990b: 176-78).[9]

 

Indeed, paving the way from pagan worship of earthly existence (characteristic of his first period) to the somewhat otherworldly emphasis on spiritual and ethical values (typical of the third), in the early 1930s, Pasternak programmatically embraced the socio-political and cultural dictates of the times, in a gesture combining a Realpolitik interest in the affairs of

this world with an emphasis on ideology. He simultaneously underwent a formal evolution from what he would later perceive as a whimsically modernist earlier style to the mature simplicity of his post-war poetry.

 

In his 1956 autobiography, Pasternak disowned his early poetics; he declared that his first autobiography, Safe Conduct (1929), "unfortunately,... is spoilt by unnecessary mannerisms, the common fault of those years" and that "I do not like my style up to 1940" (1959b: 19, 81).

 

The period of transition--indeed, of dialectical antithesis--was far from being unproblematically optimistic. Rather, the "change" in the persona's "strivings and mainstays," symbolized by the ebb and flow of the sea, "is sounded in a minor key" (Oni shumiat v minore).[10]

In 1925, responding to the questionnaire about the Party's still relatively liberal resolution concerning literature, Pasternak had written: "The presence of the proletarian dictatorship is not sufficient to affect culture. That would require a real organic domination that would speak through me... even against my will. I do not feel that. That that [condition] is not there objectively either is clear from the fact that the resolution has to call on me to resolve the themes it outlines" (1990b: 259-60).[11] The concept of "organic domination" invoked by the poet, i. e. of the miraculous power exercised by the whole of creation over "every last trifle," is an invariant theme in Pasternak and one of the keystones of his philosophy and esthetics, whose sources lie in, among others, Tolstoy and Goethe.[12] Pasternak's world is one of a magnificent play of forces, natural, yet miraculous, in which everything is in unity with everything else: small and great, home and the outdoors, this instant and eternity.[13] The confrontation of this harmonious worldview with the realities of ascendant Stalinist socialism was bound to produce controversial results.

The dictatorship's "organic domination," still disputable in the mid-1920s, had to be recognized as a compelling fact of life by the early thirties. The consolidation of Stalin's totalitarian regime spelled the end of all pluralism, political or literary, to the accompaniment of noisy propaganda of socialist construction and the new, collectivist morality. Sadly, the dictatorship's combination of repressive stick with ideological carrot succeeded in favorably impressing many an honest intellectual of the thirties, inside as well as outside the Soviet Union. Pasternak's texts of the time offer an instructive testimony to the internal workings of these ideological processes.

Pivotal to Pasternak's poetic acceptance of the emerging "Socialist" reality were several new strategies rooted in his previous stances. To outline these strategies, underlying Second Birth, I use Andrey Bely's method of 'composite quotation': a semi-prosaic summary of poems (with additional explanatory comments in brackets).

 

1. Voluntary and even enthusiastic submission to power:

 

The distant horizons (dal') of Socialism--or is it "up-closeness" [bliz', a Futurist-style neologism]?--are inevitably moving in, they are right here; the [Party's] General Plan resembles the steep Caucasus Ridge, whose heel tramples over the poet's prophesies; the strong New Man has already ridden over us in the Project's horse-cart. The revolutionary will, ongoing executions, and a historical parallel with the inexorable but creative violence done [a century earlier] to the Caucasus by czarist troops, who took it the way one takes a woman (i. e. by a force mixed with love and independently of imperial Petersburg,[14])--all these suggest succumbing to power before one turns into a [saint's] relic and an object of pity.

 

2.        Hope for positive changes and trust in collectivism:

 

One is witnessing a change of all the mainstays--a resettling, a transfiguration of the world: one can hope for glory and common good, and should restrain one's own temporary caprices (vremennuiu blazh'). In spring one can hear the rustle of news and truths, ahead there lies an impregnable novelty, a life beyond gossip and slander; the future itself, along with the poet's beloved, invades his room. The [proletarian holiday of] May Day heralds the blossoming of songs, living mores [zhivye nravy], tilled land, various crafts and industries, and a spirit that has ripened and undergone a new fermentation and thus cannot help manifesting itself. The Soul is leaving the West, revolutionary will spells a relief in women's lot, a delivery from the pains of jealousy, and a happy future for children. The new way of life will involve the poet in the desired and legitimate collective labor (so vsemi soobshcha i zaodno s pravoporiadkom), it promises to eliminate the falsity of a literateur's life and endow the poet with supernatural vision, unheard-of stylistic simplicity, accessibility to the people, and an ability to merge with the native tongue and landscape in the manner of Pushkin and Lermontov.

 

3. Reliance on tradition, with the new passed-off as the familiar old:

 

Accounts of the generations that served a hundred years before us inspire the revision of our mainstays; the experience of great artists, in particular Pushkin (author of semi-collaborationist "Stanzas" to Czar Nicholas I[15] and of A Feast in the Time of the Plague) and Chopin (who miraculously holds off the mob raping/crucifying him and his piano[16]); the consoling analogy with the beginnings of Peter the Great's glorious days; and the uninterrupted chain of vernal holidays, going from May Day back to Trinity's birchtrees and the lights of Panathenaic festivals [in ancient Greece] and forward to the eventual blossoming of the Commune.

 

4. Socialism as part of the landscape:[17]

 

A master metaphor for the change is the succession of waves (smena voln) foaming/singing along the way [in a Pasternakian paronomasia of pena/pen'e]. The account of the previous generations is narrated by the woods; the novelty of the future is a sort of echo, the General Plan is likened to the Caucasus Mountains, Socialism is seen as distance (dal'), and it is there that the Second Five-Year Plan proffers the theses of the soul. The new mores and songs lie down quite literally "into" the space of the meadows, fields, and industries (v luga i pashni i na promysla), while the rushing streams receive the outskirts of construction sites "into" their creeks.

 

All four strategies for accepting the new are organically rooted in Pasternak's poetic world. 'Submission to power' is one of his favorite motifs. 'Hope...' is in accord with the poet's ecstatic outlook, 'changes and transfigurations' are a recurrent manifestation of the world's magnificent intensity, while 'collectivism' easily comes under the heading of unity and contact. In its turn, 'reliance on tradition...' means equating the everyday (the present) with the great (the past and the future),[18] which results in fling 'at home in the future.'[19] Finally, the treatment of 'socialism as landscape' relies on the Pasternakian 'contact with nature.'

Adaptation to the new encompasses also the sphere of poetic language, resulting in

 

5. Stylistic simplification:

 

Pasternak streamlines his syntax and renounces lexical rarities and convoluted tropes; he also lets the 'I' of the speaker (and the human shape in general) emerge more distinctly from the background, with which it had bn programmatically blended.[20]

 

Pasternak's search for poetic accessibility (which was to continue in later years), too, came from his general belief in the magnificence of all things trivial, lowly, and provincial, manifested through a liberal mixing of stylistic registers, use of dialectisms, officialese, etc. Paradoxically, in his earlier verse this tendency had resulted in density and obscurity; one wonders, therefore, what shape the striving for unheard-of simplicity (i. e. the art "of writing badly") would ultimately have taken, were it not for the populist pressure exerted by the cultural situation of the thirties.

 

Sabotage.

The 'acceptance of the new' in Second Birth was, of course, far from wholehearted. Instead of embracing the extremes of the ruling ideology, Pasternak opted for compromise, welcoming Socialism on universal humanitarian grounds rather than those of class struggle; accordingly, his tone is tinged with reservations. I will isolate three of his self-subversive strategies.

 

6. Qualified assertion of the new, premised on such modalities as suppositions, questions, reservations etc.:

The meaning of the recent experience is not yet complete, in this book there will be arguments and litigations. Oh, would that the issue of socialism were as graphic as the Caucasus Ridge!--in that case one could...; please, do correct me, [you,] the distance/closeness of socialism, but only you yourself--rather than the hollow verbosity (pustozvonstvo) of flatterers. The distance, however, is only vaguely visible through the smoke of theories (Ty kurish'sia skvoz' dym teorii); "Caucasus, oh, Caucasus, what shall I do?!"; "Oh, had I known that this is what happens...!" So far one can talk only of an eve's bud (buton kanuna): the May Day spirit will only manifest itself in the remote future; optimistic hopes are a temptation that can lead one to a dead-end, and to succumb to it, one would need the consolation of historical parallels.

 

7. Accumulation of negative images:

 

The waves sound in a minor key, number dark myriads [t'ma means both "darkness" and "myriad"], and envelop the entire range of the poet's nostalgia. The decline of the West is similar to a manor house without owners and spells the decline of living merits [zhivykh dostoinstv]. The Caucasus landscape is rife with excesses of figurative and literal evil (pain, fear, ruthlessness, anger, back-biting, stutterer scared by the wet-nurse, defeats, captivities, ineluctable violence, brigandry, clangor of daggers, [poisoned] gas attack, salvoes of shooting, throats of beheaded). The scenes of Moscow life abound in images of

--hardship: consolidation (uplotnenie) of apartments, fuel shortages, decline of domestic comforts;[21]

--emotional disarray: sterility, deception, cerebral fictions resembling rotten fishheads, the hour of sadness; something in us is wping: oh, have mercy;

last year's despondency and guilt will again sting the poet; --pain: the heavy heaviness of illness, with all my weakness, fling like a cripple, ripping the soft flesh [of the finger-tips] until it bleeds [i miakot' v krov' poria...,--about Chopin's piano playing]);

--death: mutinies and executions, death of a poet (Mayakovsky), completely perishing in earnest, the passing of a major musician, a dead city; the road heading, with an absolute straightforwardness, for the crematorium; to freeze as a crucifix of pianofortes; verses will gush through the throat and kill the poet, a pill will not save one from death, the sequence of days has snapped, we are at Plato's symposium/feast in the time of the plague ("... i poniali my,/ Chto my na piru v vekovom prototipe--/ Na pire Platona vo vremia chumy" ("Leto" ["Irpen'..."]).

 

Stylistically, these forms of ideological sabotage are seconded by a characteristic Aesopian device:

 

8. Exaggerated use of political officialese, dry to the point of absurdity, e. g.:

 

"I tak kak s malykh detskikh let/ Ia ranen zhenskoi dolei/.../ I tak kak ia lish' ei zadet/ I ei u nas razdol'e,/ To ves' ia rad soiti na net/ V revoliuts'onnoi vole," lit. "And since from my tender childhood years/ I have been wounded by the plight of women/.../ And since I am affected only by it/ And in our country it is in full swing,/ Therefore, I am glad to shrink away completely/ In the revolutionary will."

 

The strategies of sabotage, too, proceed from Pasternak's invariants. His 'qualifications' regarding Socialism thrive on the rich rhetorical soil of his poetic discourse, as he literalizes his tropes and thus restores them to their full face value. As a result, his favorite similes, interrogative and conditional moods, subjunctive constructions with by, and other non-factual modalities become the tools of questioning the allegedly unquestionable 'new.'

 

Compare, for instance, the questions that genuinely torment the speaker of the Second Birth ("The distance...? or is it the upcloseness?... Oh, only if... then... I would...") with the similarly structured, but purely rhetorical questions in My Sister Life, brimming with enthusiastic assurance ("Where shall I put my joy? ... When else did...? When, if not: In the Beginning...?).

 

The 'negative motifs' (pain, destruction, etc.) undergo a similar reinterpretatation:

 

If previously they were used as the rhetorical reverse of the world's overwhelming magnificence, in Second Birth they tend to become the focus of attention, threatening to topple the magnificent balance of 'overwhelming power' and 'overwhelmed powerlessness'; s, for instance, the tell-tale line "Velikolepie vyshe sil..." in "Val's s chertovshchinoi" (1941).

 

Finally, the 'use of dry officialese,' pushing as it were to its logical extreme the democratization of poetic language, brings Pasternak full circle back to obscurity, this time of the Soviet-bureaucratic, rather than subjective-lyrical sort. The deliberate arduousness of these flights of quasi-official rhetoric iconizes the jarring difficulty of the new reality and thus both celebrates it (in a Futurist vein) and subverts it by exposing its unnaturalness.

Such deviations from the Party line on how a fellow-traveler should go about becoming one with socialism did not pass unnoticed. Suffice it to say that Pasternak's ambiguous rewrite of Pushkin's "Stanzas" was barred from the Second Birth for three decades after 1934, the year the First Congress of Soviet Writers inaugurated the reign of Socialist Realism.

 

2. I Want To Go Home...": themes and strategies.

Theme: a polyvalent cluster.

 

The core of IWH's message is informed by an interplay of several thematic complexes.

Firstly, and in the most immediate sense, IWH expresses the speaker's 'nostalgia for his Moscow home.' Openly stated from the start, this theme defines the fragment's place within the longer poem: the anticipated return to the familiar apartment interrupts the poet's impressions of the Caucasus.[22]

Secondly, as a representative of Second Birth, IWH implements the 'acceptance of the Socialist new' and to do so, deploys the contrasting strategies of 'adaptation' and 'sabotage.'

Thirdly, IWH is, in a widening circle, an instance of the all-Pasternakian magnificence and unity of existence. Even a cursory glance at the text yields a wealth of "Pasternakisms," for instance:

 

Importance of the small ("the hugeness of the apartment," risks of a pre-dinner walk); extreme states ("right and left," "by heart"); intense motions ("pass all through," "cuts [cross-sects]," "rise up," zazubrish' [a punning combination of "cramming" and "denting"]); powerful/ sinister emotions ("darkness real scary,"[23] slumping of the heart's muscle, "future madnesses"); and the grand scale of the categories involved ("like light," "lifetimeness, "testaments," the future).

 

As usual, these 'magnificent' motifs are combined with manifestations of the world's 'unity':

 

Itineraries connecting the in- and outdoors; situations of illuminating, passing through, growing into, covering, enveloping, exchanging (of favors: "I will accept you... for the sake of... that you will..."), and strong emotional reactions (verging on a heart attack).

 

Fourthly, in still wider--extra-Pasternakian--intertextual terms, IWH is a poem on the time-hallowed topic of the 'role of art,' in the tradition inaugurated in Russia by Pushkin's "Prophet." That poem is a major presence in IWH, and not just in the sense of 'genre memory.'

 

Both texts are about the rebirth of the poet. The transformation is accompanied by returning from another place (the desert in Pushkin; the Caucasus in Pasternak) and assuming an important social responsibility (to stride over the earth, searing human hearts with words, in Pushkin; to put into words Moscow's growth, in Pasternak).

In Pushkin's poem, the rebirth follows a symbolic death ("Like a corpse, in the desert did I lie") and magical surgery, performed by the six-winged seraph on the eyes, ears, mouth (lips + tongue), and heart of the nascent prophet. In IWH, the upsurge of poetic energy (in stanza VII) is preceded by the snow-shrouded landscape and begins, paradoxically, with another deadening downward move, the slumping/collapse of the heart.

As the heart's muscle, together with the speaker's hearing, eyesight, and speech, proceeds to create poetry, it seems to hark back to "The Prophet" in

(i) its synesthetic magic, partly foreshadowewd in stanza IV, where the speaker smells the song of the visible landscape; and

(ii) its spatial organization: Pasternak's triadic image of Moscow crawling, sending up smoke, and vertically growing replicates the Prophet's alertness to the goings-on in the air, on land, and under water ("And I took in.../ The on-high flight of the angels,/ The growing of the valley vine,/ and the underwater movement of sea monsters").

The image of cutting/cross-secting (sechet, in II) recalls the seraph's cleaving/cutting up (rassek) of the prophet's breast. Such an anatomic literalization of Pasternak's Cubist image is reinforced by the lexically ambiguous "thin-ribbedness of the partitions, passed through as if by light," overtly referring to the partitions installed in consolidated apartments to accommodate additional tenants, but also connoting X-ray pictures. This double exposure of the 'apartment/rib cage' anticipates the eventual harnessing of the sick heart (in VII-VIII) and echoes the painful imagery elsewhere in Second Birth,[24] while X-rays offer a technological counterpart to Pushkin's image of the world magically penetrable to the prophet.

 

All this is in tune with Pasternak's reorientation, in Second Birth, from the Romantic tradition of Lermontov (which was so important for My Sister--Life) to that of Pushkin qua national poet. In fact, Pushkin, thrown overboard from the steamship of modernity by the Futurists, would be touted, from the 1930s on, as the great forebear of the official culture and quite earnestly used as a literary model by such disparate figures as Pasternak and, say, Zoshchenko.[25]

 

In 1923 Pasternak wrote an overt--and pointedly Romantic/Futurist--variation on "Prophet" ("Mchalis' zvezdy, v more mylis' mysy..."), focusing on the poet's supernatural contact with the entire world, at whose center it placed the writing of the Pushkin poem. Eight years later, Pasternak's accent had shifted from the self-indulgent celebration of poetry as such to the necessity of pressing its power in service of superior goals (in Pushkin, God's voice bids the newly born prophet to "be filled with My will").

 

Finally, in yet another intertextual affiliation, IWH is a treatise on the vital issue of 'the poet's apartment.' The portrayal of living space has long been an ideologically laden topos in Russian literature.

 

A major strand of this tradition runs through Chernyshevsky's What Is To Be Done? and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment all the way to the Soviet period. Characteristic of this latter are new--avantgardist and socialist--views of private vs. communal space and an acute shortage of housing, richly thematized in the prose of Zamyatin, Zoshchenko, Olesha, Bulgakov, Ilf and Petrov, Pasternak, and many others.[26]

 

In the lyric genre, the poet's lodgings often represent 'the locus of art' and, as the paradigms of 'poetry' and 'lodging' are superimposed on each other, the apartment's walls, windows, ceiling, furniture etc., and their relation to the outside world become metaphors/metonyms of the creative process.

Such is clearly the case in Mandelstam's "The Apartment Is Quiet As Paper..." (signaled already by its opening simile), and in its two equimetrical sources: Alexander Blok's 1908 "To [My] Friends" ("Druz'iam") and Vladislav Khodasevich's 1921 "Ballad" ("Ballada").[27] All three share a dim view of the apartment as embodiment of the staleness of the poetic profession and pin the hopes for change on an escape from its confining walls.[28]

 

In Blok's poem the alternative ("to bury oneself in fresh high grass") is only aired briefly and involves renouncing poetry and consciousness.[29]

Mandelstam displays, against all formidable Stalinist odds, a defiant determination to start anew, even if it entails finding inspiration not in Hippocrene's spring, but in "a stream of the old fear [that]/ Shall burst into the slapdash walls/ Of an evil Moscow flat."

Mandelstam's reference to a classical emblem of poetry (Hippocrene's spring) may have been patterned on the concluding image of Khodasevich's "Ballad," whose speaker succeeds in transcending the walls of his squalid room without physically leaving it, as he transforms himself, through the magic of poetic creativity, into that archetypal poet of all time, Orpheus. By the same token, Khodasevich transforms Blok's purely negative paradigm of the poet's lodgings by coupling it with the dialectic script of 'the rebirth of a poet,' in particular, with elements from Pushkin's "Prophet."[30]

 

The negative valorization of the apartment as opposed to outside space was in keeping with the Romantic/Symbolist tenet that 'life is elsewhere.' This was, of course, quite contrary to Pasternak's positive view of both indoor and outdoor environment,[31] nor was such a position the only possible among the Symbolists. In fact, two poems by the Symbolist-turned-pro-Communistt Valerii Briusov, "At Home" ("U sebia," 1902; Briusov 1961: 177-78) and "By the Kremlin" ("U Kremlia," 1923; Briusov 1961: 471), instantiating an alternative pattern of valorizations, may have shown Pasternak a way to mediate between the extremes of rejecting and embracing the harsh realities of Socialism.[32]

 

In the earlier Briusov poem, the speaker has a residual attachment to his familiar surroundings, but finding that the flames there have grown cold and sing his old self "as a snake [sees] the skin it has shed," he decides to leave his home "in search of new perfections."

The second poem, written very much in the official Soviet vein,[33] pointedly revisits and revises the older one, indeed, retraces backwards the outbound journey begun there: the speaker is now shown returning from various exotic places to Moscow and "the Red Kremlin," which he declares to be both his "domestic world" and the center of the world's miracles.

 

In IWH, Pasternak combines, as it were, all of Briusov's itineraries (he comes back to his Moscow home from a remote exotic place, then goes out of the apartment into the rising capital) and value judgments (the familiar "domestic world" is both sad and desirable, Moscow is the site of miracles). Thus, ironically, he comes to repeat, eight years later, Briusov's pro-Soviet move, which at the time he had considered a violence to the poet's genuine self.[34]

 

In sum, the traditional poetic topoi of the vatic artist and his lodgings qua locus of poetry are refracted, in IWH, through Pasternak's invariants--his overall vision of the world's magnificent unity and his 1930s' meditations on the pros, as well as the cons, of accepting the new realities, triggered by the homesickness that seizes the speaker vacationing in the Caucasus. The subthemes that comprise this thematic cluster exhibit, as we have sn, strong mutual affinities:

--'nostalgia,' 'poet's lodgings,' and 'home's unity with the macro-world' all center on the motif of 'home';

--the rebirth of the poet as prophet has been linked to the transcendence of the confining apartment;

--the adaptation to/sabotage of Socialism are formulated in idiosyncratically Pasternakian terms;

--the subversively 'negative emotions' can easily accommodate 'nostalgia'; and so on and so forth.

 

 

Mediation: a dubious ecstasy.

In implementing a complex theme, however, success depends not so much on the seamless fusion of its components as on the persuasiveness of the overall design that mediates the text's various voices and oppositions. IWH's rhetoric hinges on an ambiguous and yet ecstatic acceptance of new, Socialist Moscow, seen as a Steeringent but necessary harness. This formulation raises several questions (as is only natural in view of the 'ambiguity'): How specific is the reference to 'Socialism'? How does 'harness' fit into the thematic cluster outlined above? By what Tolstoyan "labyrinth of couplings" is the transition achieved from the hugeness of the apartment to the acceptability of the harness?

Unlike in some other poems of Second Birth, in IWH, Socialism is never mentioned by name. Rather, it looms behind such elliptical expressions as

--"growing into" (vrastaiushchei): a political slogan of circa 1930 that called for the individual farmers' growing into Socialism;

--"testaments" (zavety): a current phrase that referred to the testaments of Il'ich, i. e. Lenin's legacy;

--"the task" (zadach[a]) is reminiscent of Party lexicon, in particular, the title of Lenin's essay ("Ocherednye zadachi sovetskoi vlasti");

--"you build yourself" (stroish'sia): the verb stroit' "build/construct," inevitably conjured up Socialism as its direct object in the propagandistic lingo of the times. Thus, these allusions were sufficiently transparent for contemporary readers.

What is more, the portrayal of Moscow in the poem's finale seems to have been more or less directly borrowed from Mayakovsky, the number one herald of poetry's subjugation to the dictates of socialst construction. His 1926 poem "Two Moscows" (1955-61, 7: 176-79) about the transformation of Russia's proverbial "Big village" into an industrial Socialist capital, offers striking parallels to IWH.

 

Mayakovsky has Moscow building itself; enthuses upon sing it rock, rise, and straighten itself; opposes it to old-time hooliganism and rural darkness (cf. IWH, V); imagines the new city rushing the village [like a horse] at cord's end (cf. IWH's harness!); proclaims his kind of verse as fastening loose prose down with bolts (cf. the "cramming/denting" of verse in IWH, VIII); and declares that it does not take a visionary prophet (!) to see the Socialist future.

 

These images, putting down the traditional cult of the poet and glorifying technocratic violence done to life and literature in general and horses in particular were, of course, vintage Mayakovsky--a pro-technology Futuristic persona, yet strongly identifying itself with dogs and horses, and very much in sync with the time's fixation on 'slaughter.'[35]A further crystallization of this thematic cluster appeared in Mayakovsky's "What Are You Complaining Of?" (predating his death by only one year, and Second Birth, by two), where the poet, a denizen of the skies, is called upon to discard his ancient mantles and fasten his Muse with strong ties, like a horse, onto the cart of everyday life.[36]

The 'horse/Muse taming' topos may have held several attractions for Pasternak. For one thing, he had his own biographical and poetic investment in the equine motif.[37] He had also been long involved with Mayakovsky's poetic posture, which he tried to emulate before distancing himself from it.[38] Therefore, having survived Mayakovsky's tragic death and pondering his own second birth into the Socialist thirties, Pasternak would naturally be faced with the twofold challenge: on the one hand, to adopt Mayakovsky's program of stepping, for Socialism's sake, on the throat of his own song and hitching his poetry to the Project's cart and yet, on the other, to do so on and in his own terms. Such may have been the underpinnings of Pasternak's feat of self-harnessing,[39] performed in an evasively ambiguous and thus almost natural, non-violent, emotionally agreeable manner. How did he manage this tour de force?

 

Strategy: a momentum for acceptance.

Coming to grips with reality, i. e. reconciling with life and ultimately with death, is an eternal issue. Art has developed an array of strategies for its treatment and rhetorical resolution. In IWH, Pasternak resorts to one such figure, which is based on the principle of foreshadowing:[40] by placing the undesirable element at the end of a long sequence of its more acceptable versions, the poet creates a powerful momentum for its eventual acceptance.

In the theory of advertising, this figure--I will call it 'Acceptance by Momentum'--is known as "yes-response technique."

 

"The canvasser rings the doorbell. The door is opened by a suspicious lady-of-the-house. The canvasser lifts his hat. 'Would you like to buy an illustrated History of the World?' he asks. 'No!' And the door slams... Hence... we [must] start a person in the affirmative direction. A wiser canvasser rings the doorbelll... 'This is Mrs. Armstrong?' Scowlingly--'Yes.' 'I understand, Mrs. Armstrong, that you have several children in school.' Suspiciously--'Yes.' 'And, of course, they have much home work to do?' Almost with a sigh--'Yes' [and so on]... [T]hat second canvasser is destined to go far! He has captured the secret of getting, at the outset, a number of 'yes-responses'" (Overstreet 1925: 16-17).

 

The analogy with advertising may sm crude,[41] but it offers a pertinent perspective on IWH as the poet's attempt to "sell" (to the reader, and, more importantly, to himself) the new, tight, and unattractive harness of Socialism. Pasternak's "harness commercial" relies on a staggered process to make the critical transition almost imperceptible, if not welcome, by having it follow on the heels of steps that raise no objections; hence, incidentally, the poem's considerable length. But, of course, adapting the 'Acceptance by Momentum' technique to his artistic goals, Pasternak deviates from its skeletal formula, enriching it in at least two respects.

First, his acceptance is circumscribed with reservations; note the concessive phrase in stanza III (Puskai... I po takoi..). The new Moscow is accepted in the spirit not so much of Pushkin's encomium to Petersburg in the introduction to The Bronze Horseman ("Liubliu tebia, Petra tvoren'e...") as of Lermontov's ambivalent "Motherland" ("Liubliu otchiznu ia, no strannoiu liubov'iu..."). In other words, the yes-response technique becomes a yes-and-no response technique.

 

One characteristic manifestation of this ambivalence is the obsessive, if somewhat obscure, use of expressions with ominously 'criminal' connotations ("lifetimeness--boss around--to be no fools...--bribes--under investigation--..."). Each of these words is employed figuratively, but their cumulative effect is clearly negative. It is reinforced by the similarly ambiguous, but 'ideologically positive' effect of the tongue-in-cheek officialese.

 

Second, Pasternak diversifies the technique by engaging simultaneously four aspects of the self-harnessing process--temporal, spatial, emotional, and stylistic, as the speaker comes to like something that is unfamiliar, confining, disagrable, and altogether unpoetic. As a result, the poem's rhetorical design becomes more multifaceted and thus beter naturalized--rather than stark and obvious. Added to the original length of its melodic line and its major key/minor key ambivalence is the polyphony of several levels of discourse.

 

 

3. The four reasons

 

Time: new = old.

 

This rhetorical equation is inherent in the very technique of affirmative responses, designed to smooth the transition from the earlier stages of a process to its payoff in the end. Such a technique should prove all the more relevant in the temporal sphere. Thus, the temptation to pass off the unfamiliar Socialist new for the familiar traditional old finds an iconic expression in the structural properties of the chosen compositional figure. This momentum (actually, a familiarization device) also gets a boost from the 'homesickness' component of the theme: nostalgia by definition means looking forward to a return back to the familiar past.

The rhetoric of familiarization pervades the text of IWH. In the manner of a fortune teller who first gains the customer's trust by divining his past and only after that proceeds to predict his future, the path into the unknown future under construction is beaten, in IWH, through the familiar sites of Moscow's domestic life and landscape.

 

These scenes, comprising three quarters of the entire text (stanzas I-VI), are saturated with 'habitual' motifs: homecoming, taking off one's coat, sedentary life, pre-dinner constitutional, the cycle of day following night (V-VI). In stanza IV, the theme is sounded openly: "AGAIN, with the FAMILIARITY of their song..."; once announced, it begets the structural leitmotif of the "song" that will reverberate through to the end of the poem--the sequence of seven anaphoric repetitions of the retrospective word "again" (opiat').[42]

 

On the microrhythmical scale, this is echoed by the choice of meter in stanzas IV-VI: they stress the familiarity of the Moscow cityscape in the most 'regular' forms of iambic tetrameter (the most frequent fourth form, with the unstressed third foot, and the most "normal," fully-stressed first form). Thus the theme of familiarity is expressed even on the subliminal, "musical" level of the text and, what is more, Pasternak almost literally fulfills his promise "to write badly," namely, in the meters of a Demyan Bedny.

 

In fact, the entire text of IWH is a metrical compromise between the early Pasternak's modernist preference for the stress the first foot and the more traditional statistical predominance of the second, favored by the Soviet literary Thermidorians, looking back to nineteenth-century classics (s M. Gasparov 1974: 94).[43]

 

The concerted action of the plot, lexicon, and rhythm is also joined by the "poetry of grammar," which, appropriately, takes the form of an original use of the future tense.[44] That tense would be--and is--quite in order in the poem's finale, which anticipates the imminent assumption of the Socialist harness and the poet's subsequent hard-earned passing into the memory of the generations to come. The future tense, however, makes its appearance in the text well ahead of time, as early as stanza I; it pervades stanza II, disappears briefly in III, and is firmly back in control from IV on. This grammatical device greatly facilitates the difficult task of "riding into the unknown":[45] the presentation of perfectly habitual situations (such as entering one's apartment, taking off one's coat, going for a walk before dinner. etc.) under the grammatical guise of future events desensitizes the reader to the distinction between present and future. The poet, as it were, repeatedly cries wolf at the slightest provocation, and when the "wolf" does appear, the vigilance has been lulled and the Socialist harness gets accepted automatically, without alarm or objection.

 

Space: confinement = expanse.

 

The poem's finale has Moscow both narrowed into a harness for the poet and expanded into the wide (and ever widening) audience for his verses. This crucial neutralization of the largely spatial opposition crowns a series of much more attractive variations on the same theme.

The spatial plane of IWH is overdetermined by the treatment of Socialism as landscape, which, in turn, is based on the Pasternakian contact betwn indoor and outdoor space. The poem's nostalgic theme (whose spatial aspect consists of returning to one's native city and home) and the technique of 'Acceptance by Momentum' concur to produce a plot featuring a long chain of displacements and other spatial interactions. Moreover, from the start, an equation is established between being enclosed (in the apartment; at the desk) and being at large (in the apartment's hugeness; growing into the testaments of the days); as early as stanza I, on entering the apartment, the poet is emblematically illuminated by streetlights. Furthermore, both the closed and the open spaces are (at least, in part) positively valorized (as is characteristic of Pasternak's poetic world[46]), thus preparing eventual acceptance of the harness.

Another aspect of IWH's spatial ambiguity is its paradoxical dynamics of motion, combining at all times the opposites of mobility and slackness.

 

While inside the apartment, the speaker, rather than remaining passive (as prompted by the spatial restrictions, as well as his sadness, and the reflexive-passive verbs in stanza I), swings into active movement ("enter," "pass through, "cutting"). The momentum he thus acquires sends him coursing through the streets of Moscow, but this expanding movement is accompanied by a decrease in his activeness: stanzas IV-VI omit the first person from the narrative, turning the acting subject into an unmentioned (!) passive witness and emotional experiencer of the activities of the landscape and the elements.

 

The two concluding stanzas complete this symmetrical composition by an ambiguous fusion of confinement with expanse and energy with passivity.

 

On the grammatical level, this is iconized by the equal distribution of the subject/object roles between the poet and Moscow ("[I] will put [lit. enclose!] into words--how you... build yourself"; "I will accept you--you will cram/memorize me"), thus illustrating the fairness and reciprocity of the contract.

 

Such is the spatial dynamics that leads to the emblematic image of Moscow-as-harness from its embryonic prototype--"the hugeness of the apartment."

 

Flings: desiring the unpleasant.

 

The emotional plane of the 'Acceptance by Momentum' technique consists of admixing some positive elements to the inevitably negative tonality of the poem and thus anticipating eventual self-harnessing, in a carefully dosed vaccination or medication with "a spoonful of sugar." This strategy draws naturally on Pasternakian admiration for the world even at its saddest, the deliberate ambivalence of Second Birth's rhetoric, and the bitter-sweet nature of the poem's nostalgia.

The pivotal find is the characterization of the longed-for apartment as "inducing sadness." Surely, it would be more natural to long for joy and happiness, but then, the mood of grudging concession and acceptance ("Puskai... I po takoi..."; "I ia primu...") is best suited by the seemingly tautological, while actually oxymoronic, 'nostalgia for sadness.' And yet, the sadness imparted by one's own apartment is "one's own"--acceptable, familiar, sweet. The same goes for the speaker's voluntary confinement at the desk and the minor-key but 'passionate' involvement with the gloomy winter landscape, which, so to speak, immunizes him against the dangers to come.[47]

Having from the start slipped into a melancholy mood and sunk ever deeper into it as the poem unfolds, the poet and the reader develop a willingness, indeed, a sort of strained enthusiasm for Socialism. To schematize the poem's emotional route, skipping the intermediate stages: "I want to go into... sadness... harness."

The emotional (as well as spatial) plot bridging the gap between the apartment and the harness is reinforced by the formal structures of the text. Thus, the narrative curve, leading from the sad enclosure of the first stanzas,f through the expansion and lightening in the middle, to the dark and scary contraction in the end, is accompanied by a similar patterning of IWH's rhyme scheme.

 

The rhyming starts with closed vowels in closed syllables ending in voiceless consonants (ogrOmnost', grUst', tonkorEbrost'). Then the vowels widen and the syllables open up (zadAchi, dnEi, napEva). But in the dark alley-ways there again appears the narrow U, and the syllables get blocked with consonant endings (strast', vikhr'); still, a degree of wideness and openness is retained (strAst', MoskvA), coupled with the poignancy of the narrow, or rather, sharp I, punctuating the moment of creativity (vIkhr, mYshtsei). The poem ends on the gloomy chord of four rhymes, all featuring U followed by voiceless consonants (kak Upriazh'--bezUmstv--zazUbrish'--naizUst'). This brings us full circle back to the beginning (naizUst'--grUst'), emphasizing the link between the harness and sad apartment.

 

Aesthetics: sublimation of harness.

 

In meeting the artistic challenge of poeticizing the utterly unpoetic harness, Pasternak had the support of two prestigious trends in Russian poetry: the Realist, prose-oriented civic tradition (harking back to Nekrasov and even the later Pushkin), with its attention to the humble details of the life and work of everyman, in particular, the peasant; and the Futurist promotion of real work, in particular its tools, over art as such.[48] In a sadly ironic twist (mirroring the general irony of the populist revolution turned tyranny[49]), Pasternak's present task was to press this democratic/iconoclastic legacy into the service of oppression--by extolling, to paraphrase Pushkin, the charms of the harness.[50] For a means of naturalizing this difficult conceit, Pasternak could and did tap another honorable topos--the Romantic image of poet as scapegoat, i. e. a sublime, yet trampled upon, sufferer.

How were these heterogeneous hypograms reconciled in Pasternak's own esthetic credo? Not only did it aim at mediating between high and low, at finding "poetry underfoot" (1985b: 173), and bearing witness to the "intercourse of rapture with the everyday" (1985b: 54); it also featured an appropriate figure of the poet: a human embodiment of the unity of 'pain, weakness, humility, trifling existence, overwhelmed passivity, and submission to one's duty' with 'supernatural powers of observation, flights of imagination, and contact with the world's vastness and eternity.' By the 1930s, the focus in this image had effectively shifted, to stress its self-sacrificial and obligational aspects.[51]

As regards IWH's specific themes, an important esthetic solution may have been prompted by the motif of 'homecoming.' Despite his many travels and paeans to exotic landcapes, Pasternak remained--and with time increasingly so --the poet of Moscow and its environs (poet-dachnik), behind whose tree trunks he was always able to discern the sea anyway.[52] In the thirties, the modesty of such tastes acquired an additional meaning as a principled refusal to participate in the so-called "creative trips" of official Soviet writers: "And what if, for instance, I was once captivated by the way Pushkin and Tiutchev journeyed and still do journey through their books and I have given up all the strength of my heart to the difficulty of this sort of journeying, which means neglecting the ease--all too dply rooted among us nowadays--of stage-performance tours?" (1985b: 175). In this sense, the poet's voluntary confinement at home by the writing desk, in IWH, is another ambiguous, Aesopian mixture of 'collaborationist' and 'dissident' stances.

The "encounter of rapture with the everyday" overdetermines the symbolic significance of most images in IWH, e. g.:

 

the painful ecstasies of the passe-muraille poet; the lifetime task of penetrating the future without leaving the desk; susceptibility to (Christ's?) passions in the vicinity of home; heart collapsing in an enthusiastic response to Moscow's upsurge.

 

The peak of this high-wire esthetic act is reached in the last stanza.

 

First comes the acceptance of the harness, proclaimed with self-sacrificial sublimity: the verb prinimat' means both "accept" and "assume," as in the assumption of responsibility, chastisement (kara), monastic vows (postrig), and the way of the cross. Then follows the jarringly bureaucratic, as well as elevatedly archaic, phrase (Tekh radi...), which is made even more cumbersome by the inverted word order and extrametrical stress (on Tekh), to seal the bartering of self-imposed harness for future poetic madnesses.

 

In accordance with IWH's master figure and in a feat of iconic showcasing of the high/low esthetic, the climactic harnessing sweeps in on the crest of a powerful momentum generated from the quotidian/negative material of stanzas IV-VI. On the plot level, the modest details are whipped up into an ominous condensation of darkness, passions, and 'subjugation':

 

The winter's relatively mild khoziainichat', "to keep house, boss around" (in IV), leads all the way to podsledstvennykh, "under investigation" (VI), while the rather placid horizontal movements, "right and left" (IV) and "during a walk" (V), give way to more dramatic--and submerging!--vertical ones: "start falling from the sky" and "cover" (VI); this downward plunge is then followed by the climactic counterpoint of 'collapsing' and 'rising' (VII).

 

On the level of poetic syntax, this is echoed by the crescendo resulting from a skillfull manipulation of the ostensibly monotonous repetition of the anaphoric opiat', "again" (itself emblematic of life's routine). The incidence of the anaphoras combines with the variations in sentence length and structure to yield the impression of a simultaneous expansion of the lungs and quickening of the pulse.

 

On one hand, after anaphoric regularity has been established, with the word opiat' occurring in every other line (IV, V), the interval suddenly contracts (VI), an effect that is enhanced by the alliterative mimicking of opiat' in the very next word, povaliat, "will start falling" (VI, 1).

On the other hand, the sentences that begin with opiat' gradually merge, becoming longer and more complex: from two separate two-line sentences (VI) to two two-line sentences with a common subject ("darkness"; V) to two separate sentences with the expanding one-plus-three pattern (VI) to four-line complex sentences with subordinate clauses (VII, VIII). Just as the maximum sentence length and complexity are attained (in VII), the acceleration of the opiat' occurences peaks. After a poignant reconfirmation, as opiat' is once again phonetically replicated by the next word (opavshei, "slumped"; VII, 1),[53] opiat' disappears from the text.

 

Thus, launched by the 'low,' yet highly energized trifles, the poem develops the impetus that transports it into the lofty celebration of the down-to-earth and demeaning Socialist harness.

 

 

4. Conclusion

What is, on balance, the dialogic nature of IWH? Pasternak, who had shortly before declared that he "was not born to look three times differently in the eyes" of history[54] was, indeed, changing with the times--experiencing a "second birth." Steering his ambiguously 'adaptive/subversive' course between the Scylla of Mayakovsky's extreme pro-Bolshevism and the Charybdis of Mandelstam's extreme defiance (both of which led to tragic premature deaths), he was able to survive. Indeed, he lived to undergo a third major transformation of his literary identity (manifested in Doctor Zhivago and the later poetry) and become a harbinger of post-Stalin dissidence. The secret of Pasternak's "miraculous" survival (which may well have been due to sheer luck--or Stalin's inexplicable personal liking) can be related, on the literary level, to the very "organic" and "soft" way in which he tackled the harsh challenges that faced him, prefiguring his eventual embrace of Christianity.[55]

Rather than a mere Aesopian compromise with the powers that be, IWH (and Second Birth as a whole), exhibits a profoundly idiosyncratic and consummately artistic treatment of the 'collaborationist' theme and engages in a multidimensional poetic intercourse with predecessors and contemporaries (Pushkin, Briusov, Mayakovsky, Mandelstam, the 'apartment topos,' etc.). That probably is what accounts for the puzzling hybrid of a truly great poem with a conduit for such Orwellian equations as 'Sadness is Joy,' 'Ugly is Beautiful,' 'Confinement = Freedom.' To quote another major contemporary, Anna Akhmatova: "If only you knew, out of what trash,/ Verses grow, unfamiliar with shame..." . Akhmatova's 'pro-low' esthetic credo expressed in these famous lines from "Tvorchestvo" (1940), is very much akin to Pasternak's views. All the more pertinent, if sad, is the irony of their unexpectedly provocative applicability to IWH (and the poetics of Second Birth in general) in the ideological sense. In blander--theoretical--terms, however, "I Want To Go Home..." can be summed up as a case study in intertextual approaches to evolution: we actually see the poet change in response, i. e., by responding, to the master discourse of his epoch.

 

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[1] "Kvartira tikha, kak bumaga...", dated November 1933; see O. Mandelstam 1967-69, 1: 196-7, 508-09. The quotations in this section are from Ch. 33, "The Antipodes," of Nadezhda Mandelstam's first book of memoirs (1976: 149-55).

[2] N. Mandelstam cites the mysterious connections of Evgraf Zhivago; cf. Bulgakov's interest in figures of authority as desirable protectors of artists.

[3] Namely, "Noch' na dvore..." (1931)--"a reply" to Pasternak's "Krasavitsa moia..." (1931) and to its insistence on "the privileged social position of the poet."

[4] Volny was written in the fall of 1931 and first published in early 1932 (see Pasternak 1990: 488).

[5] "Leningrad" was written in December of 1930 and published in 1932.

[6] On Pasternak's three periods see Zholkovsky 1986b, 1990.

[7] "Khotet', v otlich'e ot khlyshcha/ V ego sushchestvovan'e kratkom,/ Truda so vsemi soobshcha/ I zaodno s pravoporiadkom" ("Stolet'e s lishnim--ne vchera..."). Remarkably, an echo of these lines can be heard in Mandelstam's 1935 exilic "Stanzas," I: "Ia ne khochu, sred' iunoshei teplichnykh/ Razmenivat' poslednii grosh dushi,/ No, kak v kolkhoz idet edinolichnik,/ Ia v mir vkhozhu, i liudi khoroshi."

[8] "Stolet'e s lishnim--ne vchera..."; on this poem see Note 15.

[9] The Russian idiom kak sapozhnik, "like a cobbler," means "clumsily, poorly"; moreover, the cobbler image foreshadows the provocative promotion of Demyan Bedny to the status of "the Hans Sachs of our popular movement": the German poet "Sachs was a cobbler by trade" (see A. Livingstone's commentary on pp. 178, 281). On a still deeper level, however, the mention of sapozhnik, lit. "boot-maker," evokes the special value attached to sapogi, "boots," in Russian literature. Boots were the emblematic synecdoche of the raznochintsy ("third-estate") intellectuals of the 1860s (note, in Mandelstam's "Kvartira," the allegiance to the democratic tradition of Nekrasov, expressed in "boot" terms: "Tebe, stariku i neriakhe,/ Pora sapogami stuchat'"). The utilitarian Nihilist critics (Dmitrii Pisarev a. o.) claimed that boots were more valuable than "art for art's sake," e. g., than Pushkin. Dostoevsky ironized this in The Possessed ("sapogi nizhe Pushkina"; see commentaries in Dostoevsky 1972-90, 12: 284, 311-12, a reference kindly suggested by Marcus Levitt). The Nihilists' program of producing 'useful art' was resurrected, in a new key, by the LEF Futurists: "Such work gives the artist the right to stand alongside the other working groups of the Commune, with cobblers [!], carpenters, tailors..." (Brik 1919: 225-26); cf. also Mayakovsky's lines in Oblako v shtanakh (1914): "Chto mne do Fausta, feeriei raket/ skol'ziashchego s Mefistofelem v nebesnom parkete!/ Ia znaiu--gvozd' u menia v sapoge/ koshmarnei, chem fantaziia u Gete."

[10] On the thematics and stylistics of Pasternak's second period see Sinyavsky-Terts 1978: 107; Rayevsky-Hughes 1974: 89-94.

[11] On the 1925 Resolution see Slonim 1977: 50; on Pasternak's reaction, Fleishman 1990: 133.

[12] Pasternak's acknowledged indebtedness to and affinities with Tolstoy are well-known, in particular from the second autobiography (1959b; see also 1985b: 195)); on the Goethe connection, in particular, on sila, "force, power" seen as the central principle in Faust, see Pasternak 1990b: 340-41; Kopelev 1979: 499-500.

[13] Here and below, in characterizing Pasternak's invariants, I proceed, often without references, from my previous work (Zholkovsky 1976; 1980b; 1983a,b; 1984a,b; 1985a-c; 1986b; 1990; 1991a; 1992a), which owes much to and builds on Jakobson 1969 [1935], Nilsson 1978 [1959], Sinyavsky-Terts 1978 [1965], and Lotman 1978 [1969].

[14] Incidentally, 'rape' is a recurrent 'sinisterly magnificent' motif in Pasternak (Zholkovsky 1984b: 123): "Vo sne ia slyshal krik, i on/.../ I zhenshchinoiu oskorblennoi,/ Byt' mozhet, izdan byl vdali/.../ Bol'shoi kanal s kosoi ukhmylkoi/ Ogliadyvalsia, kak beglets" ("Venetsiia"); "V kontse zh, kak zhenshchina, otprianuv,/ I chudom sderzhivaia pryt'/ Vpot'makh pristavshikh gorlopanov..." ("Opiat' Shopen...").

[15] Pushkin's 1826 "Stanzas" ("V nadezhde slavy i dobra..."), whitewashing Nicholas by likening him to Peter the Great, are an overt subtext of the programmatically analogous poem in Second Birth--"Stolet'e s lishnim--ne vchera..." ["A hundred years is not yesterday..."], where the 1930s are compared to the 1830s, and by implication, Stalin to Nicholas I and to Peter the Great.

Pasternak's identification with Pushkin in his most problematic role as a "renegade" from his near-Decembrist 1820s' self and a "collaborator" with the Nicholaevan regime may also underlie some essential similarities between the two authors' major prose works. Both Doctor Zhivago and Captain's Daughter feature protagonists who find themselves now on one, now on the other side in a civil war, acting as involuntary traitors. On Captain's Daughter in this respect see Iakubovich 1939: 185-87; on Doctor Zhivago, Shcheglov 1990, 1: 47-49.

[16] On the biographical and intertextual underpinnings of this image see Pomorska 1975: 37-39.

[17] In broader terms, this is a widely used figure of passing off some partisan ideology or special interest for something natural and universal; on such strategies see Zholkovsky 1983b, 1985c

[18] E. g. "Eto poistine novoe chudo,/ Eto, kak prezhde, snova vesna" ("Opiat' vesna").

[19] "V ego ustakh zvuchalo 'zavtra,'/ Kak na ustakh inykh 'vchera'..." (1918-1923); "V rodstve so vsem, chto est', uverias'/ I zbaias' s budushchim v bytu..." (1931); "Ia vizhu.../ Vsiu budushchuiu zhizn' naskvoz'./ Vse do mel'chaishei doli sotoi/ V nei opravdalos' i sbylos'" (1958).

[20] On the metonymic principle in Pasternak and its function in 'hiding' the speaker's persona in its surroundings see Jakobson 1969, Nilsson 1978.

[21] See: "Ia komnatu brata zaimu./ V nei shum uplotnitelei tishe..." ("Krugom semeniashcheisia vatoi..."); "I okno po krestovine sdavit golod drovianoi" ("Nikogo ne budet v dome..."; about this poem see Zholkovsky 1980).

[22] A draft version of IWH featured a link to the seascape of Waves: "Obrubki dnei, kak sakhar, khrupki,/ I galek melko nakolov,/ Znai skatyvaet more v trubki/ Belok razorvannykh valov."

[23] Temen' prosto strast' means literally "darkness to the point of passion" and connotes the passion of Christ on the cross.

[24] Cf. the grudnaia kletka in a contemporaneous poem, "Borisu Pil'niaku," rhyming with piatiletka and symbolizing the speaker's gut conservatism.

[25] On Zoshchenko's 1930s Pushkinism see Reyfman 1992; on the conservative influence of the Socialist Realist canon on Bulgakov see Ch. 7.

[26] See Matich 1990; see also Ch. 7 on Olesha and Bulgakov, with a reference to Mayakovsky's poem "O vselenii rabochego Ivana Kozyreva v novuiu kvartiru," and Ch. 9 on the treatment of space in dystopias.

[27] See Blok 1960-63, 3: 125-26; Khodasevich 1982-83, 1: 184-85. On these and other subtexts of Mandelstam's "Kvartira..." see Ronen 1973: 385-7 and also Freidin 1987: 239-41, 377; on Khodasevich's "Ballada" see Bethea 237-50.

[28] On the conversion of the topos of 'home' from positive to negative in Baudelaire's first "Spleen" and on attendant problems of poetic analysis see Riffaterre 1978: 66-70.

[29] "Zaryt'sia by v svezhem bur'iane,/ Zabyt'sia by snom navsegda!/ Molchite, prokliatye knigi!/ Ia vas ne pisal nikogda!" Notably, Blok's complete renunciation is couched in the terms of Lermontov's "Vykhozhu odin ia na dorogu..." (e. g. "Ia b khotel zabyt'sia i zasnut'"), which ends on the speaker's somewhat positive, if ambiguous, slumber under an evergreen oak, to the tune of nature's love songs.

[30] Such as being pierced by a blade, rising above lifeless existence, reaching up to the skies and under the ground, acquiring a snake's vision, and being inspired by a superior agency: "I uzkoe, uzkoe, uskoe,/ Pronzaet menia lezvie.// Ia sam nad soboi vyrastaiu,/ Nad mertvym vstaiu bytiem,/ Stopami v podzemnoe plamia,/ V tekuchie zvezdy chelom.// I vizhu bol'shimi glazami,/ Glazami, byt' mozhet, zmei--/...// I kto-to tiazheluiu liru/ Mne v ruki skvoz' veter daet"; in Pushkin's poem, the prophet is given [she-]eagle's eyes and snake's sting/tongue.

[31] On the difference between Symbolist and Post-Symbolist value systems see also Ch. 10, Note 22. On the Pasternakian unity of the home and the macro-world see Zholkovsky 1984a: 138-42; for a contrastive analysis of four poems (two by Pasternak, two by Okudzhava) treating a variation of the 'poet's apartment' topos ('the beloved's visit'), see Zholkovsky 1980c.

[32] On IWH's numerous subtextual links with "At Home" (in light of Symbolism's centrifugality) see Smirnov 1985: 80-82; the links with "By the Kremlin" were pointed out to me by S. I. Gindin (oral communication); see also Zholkovsky 1991c: 33-34. To quote some of Briusov's more striking parallels to IWH: "Tam vse poniatno i zhakomo, /.../... ia doma/.../ Pust'.../.../ I ne ischerpano blazhenstv,/ No chuiu blesk inogo sveta,/ Vosmozhnost' novykh sovershestv!" ("U sebia"); "Po snegu ten'.../No gorod-mif--moi mir domashnii,/ Moi krov, kogda vne--burelom./.../ I--zov nad stonom, svetoch v temen'--/ S zemli do zvezd vstaet Moskva./.../ Polveka dum nas v tsep' spaiali,/.../ Zdes' polnit pamiat' vse shagi mne,/ I ia khranim, zvuk v ch'em-to gimne,/ Moskva! v dymu tvoikh legend!" ("U Kremlia").

[33] Briusov was one of the first to join the Soviet literary establishment. The poem in question was written for the celebration of his 50th birthday at the Bolshoi Theater, where Pasternak also read his dedication, "Valeriiu Briusovu." In that poem, Pasternak dwelt on the sad ambiguity of Briusov's position: "Chto mne skazat'? Chto Briusova gor'ka/ Shiroko razbezhavshaiasia uchast'?/.../ Chto ne bezdelka--ulybat'sia, muchas'?"; (cf. Grossman 1989).

[34] See Note 33. In fact, Briusov had proclaimed a similar defeatist attitude as early as 1905, in his "Griadushchie gunny": "No vas, kto menia unichtozhit,/ Vstrechaiu privetstvennym gimnom"; incidentally, the word gimn appears in the penultimate rhyme of "U Kremlia," in what may be a deliberately grim self-irony. Pasternak later (in Vysokaia bolezn', 1923-28) wryly portrayed such suicidal deference to "the people": "A szadi, v zareve legend,/ Idealist-intelligent/ Pisal i risoval plakaty/ Pro radost' svoego zakata"; the rhyme legend/ intelligent, too, echoes the concluding rhyme of Briusov's "U Kremlia": aborigen [Briusov's self-reference]/ legend).

[35] Cf. Mayakovsky's programmatic line: "Kazhdyi iz nas po-svoemu loshad'" in his "Khoroshee otnoshenie k loshadiam" (1918); on his canine motifs, as well as on the 'slaughterhouse' theme in Bulgakov, Olesha, Babel, and Pilnyak and its links to the equine topos in Dostoevsky and Nekrasov see Ch. 7, and also Zholkovsky 1992b.

[36] "Slezaite s neba, zaoblachnyi zhitel!/ Snimaite mantii drevnosti!/ Sil'neishimi uzami muzu vviazhite,/ kak loshad',--v voz povsednevnosti!" ("Na chto zhaluetes'?"; 1929; Mayakovsky 1955-61, 10: 143; the parallel with IWH was kindly suggested to me by Nataliia Rubinshtein.) In addition to the many obvious parallels with IWH, note the common motif of 'undressing' (see IWH, I, 3) that accompanies rebirth.

[37] On the role of horse and riding in Pasternak's personal mythology see Fleishman 1977, Raevsky-Hughes 1989, Boris Gasparov 1990 and Zholkovsky 1991a.

[38] On this episode of Bloomian anxiety of influence see Pasternak 1985b: 137, Jakobson 1969: 149.

[39] The genealogy of 'harness' probably includes also Nikolai Aseev's lines about the nightingale-poet's desire to share the yoke of the industrial plants ("solov'iu... zakhotelos' v odno iarmo/ s gudiashchimi vslast' zavodami"; "O nem," 1922; Aseev 1967: 132). Aseev was Pasternak's favorite among Mayakovsky's Futurist followers; he lived to revise his technocratic view of poetry (see "K drugu-stikhotvortsu," 1959; Aseev 1967: 278-79); Pasternak develops the 'art = yoke" metaphor in his "Bal'zak" (1928).

[40] On foreshadowing see Shcheglov and Zholkovsky 1987: 99-122; on "figures" as "artistic templates" (S. Eisenstein), or "objective correlatives" (T. S. Eliot), of emotions see ibid.: 9, 13, 29-31, 273-82.

[41] The study of advertising as an art form was broached by that consummate theorist of style, Leo Spitzer (1962). In fact, advertising qua art was actively promoted and practised by the Futurists, especially Mayakovsky; cf. Note 9 on the topos of 'boots' as an esthetic object.

[42] Both the 'again something new' motif and its anaphoric icon are Pasternakian invariants (see above), abounding, often in conjunction, in his texts before, during and after 1930s. E. g.: "Opiat'.../ Proshlos' po lampam opakhalo/.../ Opiat' fregat poshel na travers./ Opiat'..." (Vysokaia bolezn', 1923-1928); the seven "agains" in "Opiat' Shopen ne ishchet vygod..." (Second Birth); "Ia na toi zhe ulitse starinnoi,/ Kak togda .../ Te zhe.../.../ Tak zhe... / Tak zhe.../ Ia opiat'.../ I opiat'... ("Ob'iasnenie," 1947).

[43] On the "classicist" nature and orientation of Socialist Realism see above and also Sinyavsky-Terts 1982 [1959] and Clark 1981.

[44] On the concept of 'poetry of grammar' see Jakobson 1985; on the trope-like manipulation of tense, with special reference to Proust, see Genette 1980: 113-14, 147 (cf. similar comments on Pushkin and Limonov in Ch. 6).

[45] According to Mayakovsky's famous definition, "Poeziia--vsia!--ezda v neznaemoe!" ("Razgovor s fininspektorom o poezii," 1926).

[46] The wide expanses, as well as routes that lead there, are consistently positive; but even closed, prison-like enclosures are sometimes poeticized, with a bittersweet touch, e. g. "Kto eto, gadaet, glaza mne riumit/ Tiuremnoi liudskoi dremoi" ("Devochka," 1922); Dai zapru ia tvoiu krasotu/ V temnom tereme stikhotvoren'ia" ("Bez nazvaniia," 1956). On Pasternak's positive use of the motif of 'law enforcement' see Zholkovsky 1984b: 124-25.

[47] Anna Akhmatova, in her metapoetic poem "Boris Pasternak" (1936), finds room for a paraphrase of IWH's stanza VI: "Kto zabludilsia v dvukh shagakh ot doma,/ Gde sneg po poias i vsemu konets;" and her finale ("Za to, chto.../...,--/ On nagrazhden...") is patterned on the closure of IWH.

[48] Cf. also the discussion of sapogi in Note 9.

[49] Pasternak coined an aphoristic image of this dialectic in Spektorskii (1925-1930): "A starshii byl miatezhnik, to est' despot."

[50] Pushkin epigrammatized Karamzin's History of the Russian State, which marked its formerly rather liberal author's turn to conservatism, with these lines: "In his History, elegance, simplicity/ Demonstrate to us, without any partiality,/ The necessity of autocracy/ And the charms of the whip" (1818). Ironically, again, Pushkin would live to undergo a similar evolution and thus set a precedent for Pasternak's (see above). Another irony, germane to the esthetic issue at hand, is inherent in Pushkin's prescient linking of 'simplicity' with 'necessity,' 'autocracy' and 'the knout.'

[51] Cf. the ecstatic celebration of the poet (Pushkin) drinking the reflections of the stars from the beloved's knee-caps/cups (chash[51]echek kolennykh) in "Tema" (1918; see Zholkovsky 1984a: 211-14) with the tragic image of Chopin in "Opiat' Shopen..." (in Second Birth). On the Pasternakian motif of 'duty, indebtedness, tribute,' see Zholkovsky 1984b; it is prominent in the characterization of Balzac ("Bal'zak," 1928): "A ikh zadolzhnik i dolzhnik/.../ Chtob vykupit'sia iz iarma/ Uzhasnogo zaimodavysa,/.../ Zachem zhe bylo brat' v kredit/ Parizh...?"; see also the famous portrayal of the artist as "eternity's hostage held captive by the time ("Noch'," 1956); on Pasternak's 'defeatist ecstasy' see Zholkovsky 1991a.

[52] "... Chto gde-to za stvolami more,/ Mereshchitsia vse vremia mne" ("Sosny," 1941). Note Pasternak's consistent siding with things 'marginal, provincial, second-rate,' to the point of stressing the "deliberate provinciality" of Jesus Christ in Doctor Zhivago (II, 10); poetry, accordingly, is defined as "a summer with a seat in a third-class suburban train car" ("Poeziia," 1922).

[53] Paronomastic punctuation of opiat' sequences recurs in Pasternak (variously combined with beat-acceleration); see the opiat'--upast' pairing in "Opiat' Shopen..." and opiat'--raspakhnutykh--opakhalo, in Vysokaia bolezn.

[54] "Ia ne rozhden, chtob tri raza/ Smotret' po-raznomu v glaza" (Vysokaia bolezn').

[55] Note also the "survivalist" potential of Pasternak's metaphorical Verdrangung of 'sinister' motifs into nature's microworld (flowers, raindrops, etc.); see Zholkovsky 1984b: 129-31.