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T is an old truth that literature is the
It is an old truth on which it is grown.
A writer, like a tree, imbibes the sap which feeds and shapes him. Were it not so, literatures of different nations would have no individual national characteristics. Yet this comparison should not be interpreted too closely. For unlike a tree, a writer eradicated from his native soil and living out of touch with his people is not necessarily fated to wither and die. Plato and Dante, Victor Hugo, Heine, and Mitzkewich as well as many others lived and wrote in exile. Indeed, "writer exiles" might be the subject of an interesting work embracing literatures of all times and all nations and sparkling with a brilliant array of immortal
If, however, individual writer émigrés have been many in all countries, his
tory has on its records but comparatively few examples of entire "exiled literatures". For this reason, if not for others, the existence, growth, and development at the time we live in of the exiled Russian literature in Paris, Berlin, Prague and other European capitals seem to constitute a subject deserving of attention.
Let it be stated right away that, in spite of numberless difficulties, the two million Russian exiles who fled in 19191920 from the Revolution and who do not want to return into the Soviet realm, lead an active cultural life of their own. They are scattered all over the world; their main centres are in Paris, Berlin, and Prague (which number together over half a million Russians) but there are also thousands of exiles in Shanghai, Peking, and other exotic places. Like real "sons of Israel" these men, belonging to the cultural crème des crèmes of the old Russia, form as it were a little world of their own within the world, a state within states. They have an enormous number of Russian schools in which they educate their children, two Russian universities one in Berlin and the other in Prague about sixty newspapers, a score of weeklies and monthlies, and some thirty five to forty publishing houses which have issued in the course of the last years thousands of new Russian books and republished thousands of old ones.
Most of Russia's prominent fiction writers such as I. Bunin, Kuprin, Merezhkovsky, Balmont, Artzybashev, Mrs. Gippius, Shmelyov, etc.— have joined the émigrés in their mass exodus. A mere enumeration of these names suffices to prove that the old and glorious traditions of Turgenev and Tolstoy as well as the younger schools of decadents and symbolists have left their native country and settled abroad.
In the first years of their Calvary the exiled writers could not and did not write; they were bewildered by the catastrophe, shell shocked as it were. But time heals wounds; their literary output has been steadily increasing since 1921-1922, and has attained by now its normal pre-Revolutionary proportions. Their financial situation has also changed. In the first years of exile it was almost desperate. In 1920 I happened myself to observe in Constantinople Mr. Grebenstchikov, a young prose writer, carrying loads on his back in the dirty and dusty docks of Galata. Now, since publishing houses have opened and the exiled readers have found jobs, the writer can again make his living by writing.
In a way Russian writers have even profited by their exile. The Revolution, the flight from Russia, a close communion with the spiritual life of various European nations and with European authors, have enriched them with invaluable impressions and experiences. Moreover, exile has broadened their audience. Their works are usually brought out not only in Russian, but also in French, German, Czech, etc. Almost every short story by I. Bunin or Kuprin is published simultaneously in the "Sovriemennya Zapisky" and in "Le Mercure de France" or "La Nouvelle Revue Française". "A quelque chose malheur est bon", says the French dictum, and in the case of writer émigrés it is undoubtedly true. These writers are not eradicated from their soil, for there is as it were a Russian hinterland around them, yet at the same time they are, so to say, cosmopolitanized by the conditions in which they live and work.
It is impossible even to enumerate in a short article the best works of fiction that the exiled literature has to its credit. Therefore I shall mention
only a few books that have appeared in the course of the last months, enough to give a concrete illustration of the tempo and the range of the Russian literary life outside of Russia.
The book of the month is undoubtedly the first part of "The Birth of Gods. Tut-ank-Amon in Crete", an historical novel by D. Merezhkovsky (the Russian version has been brought out by the "Sovriemennya Zapisky", Paris, and the French has been published serially in the "Mercure de France"). Judging by the title one might think that the author has decided to enrich the world with one more roman de boulevard dealing with a fashionable subject. This is not, however, the case. Mr. Merezhkovsky is the best living Russian critic and essayist, an outstanding poet, a learned linguist, a prominent philosopher, and the author of world famous historical novels ("Leonardo da Vinci", "Peter and Alexis", etc.) translated into all the European languages. His new Egyptian novel is the result of long study and research. A Russian critic justly says of it that Mr. Merezhkovsky has found words simple, heavy and old like pyramids, has worked out a style deeply original in its primitive simplicity, and has succeeded in drawing a painting of mystical beauty. His unusually daring attempt certainly does deserve the attention of the American reader.
Another event of the month is "The Rose of Jerichon", a volume of short stories and poems by I. Bunin (the "Slovo" Publishing Company, Paris). Mr. Bunin is recognized as the best contemporary Russian prose writer. He is, so to speak, the descendant of the most illustrious literary ancestors, the standard bearer of the best literary traditions. Every fragment, every story coming from his pen is an event to the Russian reader. His new vol
ume does not disappoint one's expectations: it contains real gems and masterpieces.
A striking proof of the vitality of the exiled literature lies in the fact that not only old writers continue to write, but also new ones, talented and original, emerge. Such are Aldanov, Grebenstchikov, Lukash, Mrs. Tzvietayeva, as well as
and you will see that history really does repeat itself, at least once in a while. ALEXANDER I. NAZAROFF
Notes from France
a few others. Here I shall ROOKS are written in series and read
mention only one of their works"The Devil's Bridge" by Aldanov ("Sovriemennya Zapisky"). It also is an historical novel, forming the second part of the trilogy "The Thinker". Its first part, "The Ninth of Thermidor", appeared about a year ago and won the warm praise of Russian and foreign critics. The two novels cover respectively the last years of the great French Revolution and the Napoleonic epoch. History is novelized in them with a rare art and skeptical elegance, combined with an impeccable knowledge and understanding of the epoch.
It is typical that the mind of a Russian writer émigré should turn to the French Revolution. There is a deep and interesting analogy between the Russian exiled literature of today and the French exiled literature of one hundred and thirty years ago. History repeats itself. Read (or reread) Châteaubriand's "Mémoires d'outretombe" and you will think that you have read the history of Russian exiles. Châteaubriand himself, Count Joseph de Maistre, Rivarol, and many others matured into famous writers in exile. Just as there is now a Russian Paris, there was then a French London with French newspapers, publishers, etc. And, before his situation improved, Châteaubriand, like almost all his Russian colleagues of today, had passed through months of misery and privations. Add to this the striking similarity of some ideas and reflections,
in series. This is due, first, to the fact that everyone in Paris reads and writes. Ten years ago there were a great many good books written on various subjects, from various points of view, by men, generally speaking, of from thirty five to forty five. These writers are not replaced, they still exist, but they are for the time overshadowed by a group of men of from twenty four to thirty who seem to have sprung up together, at the same time, and who have something of the same earth about them. Cadmus's army again - and from still more fertile fields. They produce one book after another, generally novels of us, and of now - bearing certain interior signs of similarity. If I find they share in the same heredity, that there is some relationship among them, I shall be severely criticized by their indefatigable self analysis. They do resemble each other in this: They have had the same education, and they have done the war. Their education has given them the same starting point of purgation, they do not feel obliged to repeat what has been said before; and second, all of them have the same instinct, idea, hallucination call it any name you can find that their time is horribly limited, and that in this short time they must succeed in a concentration, intemperate and desperate, of the best they have.
All these books are something more than good books.
There is "Etienne" of Marcel Arland
by little, we are brought from the moment of apprehension of a gigantic désœuvrement to its recognition, then to its analysis; now we are confronted with its concrete manifestation in the lives of the personages of this book. With one step further we shall be forced to deal with it in the lives of the people themselves. The French are beginning to demand that our affirmations, or our negations, extend beyond the realm of literature. In "Etienne", Arland has given himself the problem of seeing a living creature work out his own inquietudes. He leads Etienne, after having given him the full quota of experience at the age of sixteen, to a blind and exasperated state of failure. But no one has "failed" at sixteen, it has been objected, and a sequel is suggested. I doubt if Arland believes in the value or the possibility of solving problems. That he has presented us with a good one should be enough. "Etienne" has been severely criticized on the ground that Arland has too well read Gide's "Isabelle". Although the question of influences is always interesting as a matter of history, it should not be allowed to take all the attention from the book. I persist in liking "Etienne", not because it is well written so many books are that but because it is a ferment.
Then there is Philippe Soupault. I think I must have spoken before of his two novels, "Le Bon Apôtre" (Simon Kra), and "A la Dérive" (Collection Colette). The first is another psychological study of Paris in relation to a
hero, the second an excellent example of Soupault's cinema style, the life of a vagrant told in brief affirmations, from ship to bar to gold mine. "Les Frères Durandeau" (Grasset) is also a result of moving picture technique -- another gesture, another movement of the arm. We see the three brothers' photographs for a moment on the screen, then the houses they live in and the women they live with; the various ordinary episodes unroll. We must follow quickly since the narrator never retraces his steps; and when the lights are turned on we go out of the cinema theatre. The difficulty with this book is that Soupault is an acrobat, and an enthusiast with certain male delicacies. His energies are not at their best in treating of a bourgeois family. This former dadaïst, this inventor of theories and practices, has given himself too small a frame and has kept too exclusively outside of its edges. We can't help expecting a great deal from Soupault. He is the possessor of that perhaps charm. supreme quality We have never quite had the cup full of the best wine with him.
Nicole Stiébel, in "Jacqueline, ou Le Paradis Deux Fois Perdu", has succeeded not only in marking her special terms of action and reaction with the century and these people we live among, but in doing it in book form, as a composition, not as a confession. Rare for a woman and difficult. Their qualities do not lie that way. This is a book that women will read with something more than attention, because a woman exists in it and is not dwarfed and overshadowed by the giant size of the man author. More humble than Arland, she does not demand that the condition of non-adaptation to the world be universal. On the contrary, those that maintain an equilibrium are enviable; her criticism is directed only
against herself. The novel is an interesting development of a woman's two marriages, first to a devoted and contented husband, then naturally to the tormenting and indifferent egoist. The "Paradise Twice Lost" interprets from the opposite standpoint, and in a certain honest measure, a state of affairs recurrent enough. It is handled with accelerated speed rates, and corresponds in its paradox to the exigencies of our time.
PIERRE DE LANUX
Prisoners, Prizes, and New
EORG HIRSCHFELD, for many years the intimate friend of the great theatre director Otto Brahm, has published a volume of correspondence under the title "Briefe und Erinnerungen" (Georg Stilke, Berlin). The famous apostle of naturalism in the theatre reveals himself in his letters as man and artist, and the collection, supplied with copious notes and explanations by his devoted friend, will be devoured by those interested in theatrical history and in the forerunner of Max Reinhardt.
An important book of value to historians is Friedrich Meinecke's "Idee der Staataräson" (Oldenburg, Munich). In this deeply reasoned book the attempt is made to define the right of the State to overpower the individual and demand his subordination to the whole. How dangerous the too entire subordination can be, the world war has shown us; and Meinecke has laid the idea of State bare of all would be beautifying phrases about the "natural order of things" and so on. He builds up the ideal of service to the State and shows how it may in the
future be achieved without a narrow nationalism making of each State a fetish and a juggernaut.
A book which is exciting much interest at the moment is Hendrik Van Loon's "Story of Mankind" which has been translated and published just in time for the Christmas book season and is to be found in every bookseller's window. Beside it, in equal popularity next to the new Hauptmann, Mann, and Wassermann, reposes Ossendowski's "Beasts, Men and Gods", which would certainly some time since have climbed to the place of best seller if the Germans had the statistic habit in respect to book sales. It is queer that this fantastically orderly people does not seem to care for this interesting standard of popularity. In Germany one calculates the success of a book only by hearing everyone talk of it and discovering that everyone has read it. Ossendowski's success has been increased by a semi-scandal. Professor Sven Hedin, the well known expert on things Tibetan, charged him with relating good stories as hard facts. Voices arose in defense, and the matter is not yet settled; it is reported that the quarrel will end in a legal action.
An important political book which is being much read is "Aus Meinem Leben", reminiscences of Prince Alexander Hohenlohe, published by the Frankfurter Societäts Druckerei. As second son of the Chancelor Hohenlohe affectionately known in the people's tongue as "Uncle Chlodwig", this prince had every opportunity to peep behind the screens of kings and diplomats. His nose for gossip is good and his judgments sound. His pleasure in telling truths, whether convenient or not for all his hearers and readers, is probably not lessened by the fact that he fell into disgrace with the former Kaiser Wilhelm II for editing and pub