June 15, 1895
Riga, Russian Empire
|Died||October 14, 1990
Leningrad, Soviet Union
|Occupation||poet, novelist, memoirist|
Irina Vladimirovna Odoyevtseva ( Russian: Ирина Влади′мировна Одо′евцева, real name Iraida Heinike; born in Riga, Russian Empire, June 15, 1895, according to some sources in 1901; died in Leningrad, Soviet Union, October 14, 1990) was a Russian poet, novelist and author of memoirs. In 1922 Irina Odoevtseva (with her husband Georgy Ivanov) left Russia but returned in 1987, enjoying warm reception, not long before her death in 1990.
Iraida Heinike was born in Riga to the family of a lawyer. In 1918 she moved to Petrograd, adopted Irina Odoevtseva as a pen name, joined the Second Guild of Poets, was tutored by Nikolai Gumilyov and become his favourite student. According to Yevgeny Yevtushenko, she «enchanted everybody, her teacher included, with her brilliant, masterful poetry» and had tremendous success with her debut book Dvor Tcude′s (The Yard of Wonders, 1922), «skint bohemia learning her Cabman and Pressed-down Glass poems by heart». Formally an acmeist, Odoevtseva developed her own distinctive style and was in many ways ahead of her times, preceding the latter experiments of oberiuts and even 1960s Soviet conceptualists. She had a lifelong speech impediment (she couldn't pronounce her r's).
In 1923 Odoevtseva with her husband Georgy Ivanov emigrated to Paris. There she wrote several novels (Angel of Death, 1927, Isolda, 1931, Leave Any Hope, 1954) but became famous for her memoirs, On the Banks of Neva (1967) and On the Banks of Seine (1983), about people she knew well: Nikolai Gumilyov, Zinaida Gippius, Andrey Bely, Osip Mandelshtam, Ivan Bunin among others. These two books caused much controversy among the Russians in France but still «might be regarded as a priceless document of the time, even if full of aberrations and frivolous twists of fantasy».
In 1987 Odoevtseva managed to make her long-sought after and very emotional return home. She came back to Leningrad to enjoy the warmest kind of publicity and for a couple of years, according to Yevtushenko, «was transported from one concert stage to another as a kind of a talking relic and was, indeed, talking a lot — in the most gracious manner, at that».
Making a bit of a sensation on the post-Perestroyka Russian TV, the poet enjoyed even a glimpse of commercial success, 200,000 of her memoirs copies having been pressed — a figure by far surpassing whatever she might have sold through her 65 years abroad. Irina Odoevtseva died on October 14, 1990.