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 Arseny Tarkovsky

Born:   25 June (12 June ) 1907
Deceased:   27 May 1989

Russian poet and translator


This year marks the centenary since the birthday of Arseny Tarkovsky, an outstanding poet, translator, writer, and the father of the great film director Andrei Tarkovsky.

Being younger than Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetayeva, his close friends, he imbibed the poetic traditions of that generation and interpreted them through the prism of his personality in his creativity.

In his lifetime Arseny Tarkovsky was mainly known as a splendid translator of Abu'l-Ala-Al-Ma'arri, Nezami, Magtymguly, Kemine, Sayat-Nova, Vazha-Pshavela, Adam Mickiewicz, Mollanepes, Grigol Orbeliani and many other poets.

Arseny Aleksandrovich Tarkovsky was born on June 25, 1907 in Elisavetgrad into the family of a Narodnik (a revolutionary-minded person). As Tarkovsky put it himself, he started writing poetry from the potty. Poetry was a natural form of communication in the Tarkovsky's family. They used to write each other rhymed letters and notes and versify the family doings. Arseny Aleksandrovich kept that habit till the end of his life.

After finishing school he moved to Moscow. There the up-and-coming poet attended Higher State Literary Courses attached to the All-Russian Union of Poets. Upon the recommendation of Georgy Shengeli, his first poetic guru, Tarkovsky was employed in the newspaper Gudok. At the same time Arseny got acquainted with Osip Mandelstam and Marina Tsvetaeva, the latter just back from emigration.

Arseny Tarkovsky The year 1932 saw the first publications of Arseny Tarkovskys translations. In 1940 he became a member of the Writers Union.

World War Two broke into the poets life making him volunteer to the front, first as a war correspondent in the army newspaper Battle Alarm, then as a soldier in the battles near Moscow, and later in the Western, Bryansk, the 2nd Byelorussian and 1st Baltic fronts. After being badly wounded and having one leg amputated Tarkovsky had to be discharged. By that time he was already a captain.

After the war Arseny Tarkovsky prepared his collected works Verses of different years for publication. However, the poems were not released due to the notorious decree of the Central Committee of the Communist Party About journals Zvezda and Leningrad with annihilating criticism of the most remarkable contemporary poets. For a long time Tarkovsky as a poet remained unknown to general public, though his poetic translations were quite popular. His splendid translations of Oriental poets are still published nowadays.

Only in 1962 he managed to release his own collected verses Before Snow. The annotation to the book reads: Arseny Tarkovsky, a well-known translator, appears as an original poet in the book Before Snow. The book bringing together verses written within several decades sums up big profound work unfolding a complicated realm of thoughts, feelings and reminiscences of a contemporary. These few lines implied a whole life of a person who rejected to adjust his gift to the demands of the epoch.

Arseny Tarkovsky Anna Akhmatova estimated the collected verses as a precious gift to the contemporary reader. The first book of poetry was followed by others: Earthly to Earth(1966), Messenger (1969), Verses (1974), Winter Day (1980), Selected works (1982), Verses of different years (1983), and From Youth to Senility (1987).

The poet died on May 27, 1989 and was laid to rest in Peredelkino (Moscow region), side by side with the gravestone of Boris Pasternak.

The voice of Arseny Tarkovsky reciting his splendid philosophical verses can be heard in the no less philosophical and poetic films The Mirror and Stalker, directed by his son Andrei Tarkovsky.

I don't believe in omens or fear
    Forebodings. I flee from neither slander
    Nor from poison. Death does not exist.
    Everyone's immortal. Everything is too.
    No point in fearing death at seventeen,
    Or seventy. There's only here and now, and light;
    Neither death, nor darkness, exists.
    We're all already on the seashore;
    I'm one of those who'll be hauling in the nets
    When a shoal of immortality swims by.

Read Arseny Tarkovskys verses in English



By Mikhail Manykin and Vera Ivanova


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