Samuil Marshak

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Samuil Ya. Marshak
Marshak 1934.jpg
Samuil Marshak (1934)
Born (1887-11-03)November 3, 1887
Voronezh
Died July 4, 1964(1964-07-04) (aged 76)
Moscow
Language Russian
Nationality Russian
Alma mater University of London
Genres Poetry

Samuil Yakovlevich Marshak (Russian: Самуи́л Я́ковлевич Марша́к; November 3 [O.S. October 22] 1887 – July 4, 1964) was a Russian and Soviet writer, translator and children's poet. He translated Shakespeare's sonnets, some other Shakespeare's works, English poetry (including poems for children) and poetry from other languages. Maxim Gorky proclaimed Marshak to be "the founder of Russia's (Soviet) children's literature."[1]


Early years[edit]

Marshak was born on November 3, 1887 in Voronezh.[1] His father was a foreman at a soap-making plant.[1] He got a good home education and later studied at the gymnasium (secondary school) of Ostrogozhsk, a suburb of Voronezh. Samuil started to write poetry during his childhood years in Voronezh. His brother Ilya (who wrote under the pseudonym M. Ilin) (1896—1953) and sister Liya (who wrote as Elena Ilina) (1901—1964) both became Soviet authors as well.

In 1902, the Marshak family moved to Saint Petersburg. There was a complication: as a Jew, Marshak could not legally live outside the Pale of Settlement, thus he could not attend school while living in the city. Philanthropist and scholar Baron David Gunzburg took an interest in Marshak and introduced him to the influential critic Vladimir Stasov.[1] Stasov was so impressed by the schoolboy's literary talent that he arranged an exception from the Pale laws for Samuil and his family.[citation needed] He also introduced Marshak to Maxim Gorky and Feodor Chaliapin.[2]

In 1904, Samuil was diagnosed with tuberculosis and could no longer continue to live in the cold climate of Saint Petersburg. Maxim Gorky arranged for Samuil to live with his family in the Black Sea resort town of Yalta (1904–1907). Gorky and Chaliapin also paid for his education and therapy.

Young poet, philosopher and translator[edit]

In 1904, he published his first works in the magazine Jewish Life and in the mid- to late 1900s, Marshak created a body of Zionist verse, some of which appeared in such periodicals as Young Judea.[1] In 1907 he returned to Saint Petersburg and subsequently published numerous works in the popular magazine Satyricon.

Marshak failed to gain admission at a university in Russia due to 'political insecurity' and earned his living giving lessons and writing for magazines.[2] He brought many impressions, poems and a beautiful wife from his first trip to the Middle East.[2]

In 1912 he moved to England and studied philosophy at the University of London.[2] He fell in love with English culture and with English poetry.[2] In his senior year at the University he published his translations of the poems written by William Blake, Robert Burns and William Wordsworth, published in Russia. [2] His 1913 visit to an experimental "free" school in Wales (led by the Tolstoyan Philip Oyler) is noted as the event that sparked his professional interest in children.

Shortly before World War I, in 1914, he returned to Russia and devoted himself to translation.

Children's poetry[edit]

In 1914 Marshak and his wife worked with children of Jewish refugees in Voronezh.[1] The death of Marshak's young daughter in 1915 directed him toward children's literature.[1] In 1920 he moved to Ekaterinodar (now Krasnodar) to head the province's section of orphanages and it was there that he and a group of enthusiasts, including Elena Vasilieva, organized Children's town that included a children's theater, library, and studios.[1] For this theater, he co-wrote plays that later became the book Theater for Children.[1]

In 1922, Marshak moved back to what was then Petrograd to become the head of the Children's Literature Studio. He published the following works at the publishing house "Радуга" ("Rainbow"): Детки в клетке (Kids in a cage), Пожар (Fire) 1923, Сказка о глупом мышонке (The Tale of a Silly Mouse), Синяя птица (Blue bird), Цирк (Circus), Мороженое (Ice Cream), Вчера и сегодня» (Yesterday and today) 1925, Багаж (Luggage) 1926, Пудель (Poodle), Почта (Post Office) 1927, and Вот какой рассеянный (What an absent-minded guy) 1930.

Marshak had a prolific career in children's literature. Soviet critic Viktor Shklovsky wrote that "Samuil Marshak understood that many new writers would appear in the new Soviet republic. He stood at the door of literature, a benevolent angel, armed not with a sword nor with a pencil, but with words on work and inspiration." [3] Marshak's contributions to the field of children's literature was not just limited to his own writings. In 1924, Marshak became the head of the children's branch of the state publishing house Gosizdat (GIZ), a position he held for over a decade. Through his role as editor, Marhsak attracted some of Russia's best writers to try their hand at writing for children, including Evgenii Shvarts and OBERIU member Daniil Kharms.

Translations[edit]

Among his Russian translations there are William Shakespeare's sonnets and songs from Shakespeare's plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor (together with Mikhail Morozov, who translated prosaic scenes), poems of Robert Burns, William Blake, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Robert Louis Stevenson, W. B. Yeats, Edward Lear, Lewis Carrol, Rudyard Kipling, T. S. Eliot, A. A. Milne, English and Scottish folk ballads, poems from Nursery rhymes. Besides English poetry, he translated poems of Heinrich Heine, Sándor Petőfi, Gianni Rodari and Ovanes Tumanyan.[4][5]

His main work in this area is translation of Shakespeare's sonnets (1948). This translation has enjoyed great success over the years. Some Shakespeare sonnets in Marshak's translation have been set to music (in classical style by Dmitry Kabalevsky, in pop style by Tikhon Khrennikov, Mikael Tariverdiev, Alla Pugacheva and others, even in rock style — Kruiz). His translations are considered classics in Russia. But many of Marshak's poetic translations became so entrenched in Russian culture, that it was often quipped that Marshak was not so much a translator as a co-author. [2]

Later years[edit]

In 1937 Marshak moved to Moscow, where he worked on children's books and translations. During World War II, he published satires against the Nazis. After the war he continued to publish children's books including: Разноцветная книга (Multicolored book) 1948, Круглый год (All year round) 1948, Тихая сказка (A Quiet tale) 1956, etc.

In the last years of his life, he wrote aphoristic verses that he named lyrical epigrams. They were published in his last book, Selected Lyrics (Избранная Лирика) in 1963. He also published three tale plays: The Twelve months 1943, Afraid of troubles - cannot have luck 1962, and Smart things 1964.

Although not widely known, in the Soviet era, Marshak was on the (political) razor's edge and barely escaped death in 1937.[2] There is an opinion that Stalin's death (1953) saved Marshak from inevitable death in the period of the fight against cosmopolitism. His name was often mentioned in the documents of the eliminated Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.[2] However, the process of the committee ended in August 1952 (12 executed and 98 subjected to repression) and Marshak was not accused.[6] In 1953 with the death of Josef Stalin and the onset of Khrushchev Thaw Marshak was out of danger.

Samuil Marshak died on July 4, 1964 and was buried in Moscow.

Honours and awards[edit]

Samuil Marshak on a 1987 Soviet post stamp
This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Russian Wikipedia.
second class (1942) - a poetic text to posters and cartoons
second class (1946) - for the play-tale "Twelve Months" (1943)
second class (1949) - translations of sonnets by William Shakespeare
first class (1951) - a collection of "Verses for Children"

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Samuil Marshak. An anthology of Jewish-Russian literature. Maxim Shrayer. p. 192. (M.E. Sharpe February 15, 2007) Google Books
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i 115th birth anniversary of famous poet and translator Samuil Marshak. RIA Novosti. November 03, 2002.
  3. ^ Shklovskii, Viktor (1966). Staroe i novoe: kniga statei o detskoi literature. Moscow: Detskaia Literatura. p. 25. 
  4. ^ (Russian) English Poetry in Russian Translations. Moscow, 1981. P. 606.
  5. ^ (Russian) William Shakespeare. Full Collection of Works in Eight Volumes. Volume 4. Moscow, 1959. Pages 249-369.
  6. ^ (Russian)History of Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee

External links[edit]