23.10 Obituary [Alexander Tvardovsky, 1910-1971]

No 23 : 5 January 1972

Alexander Trifonovich Tvardovsky died on 18 December 1971. The Chronicle considers it suitable to publish the following text as his obituary:

There are many ways of killing a poet.

The method chosen for Tvardovsky was to take away his off-spring, his passion, his journal.

The sixteen years of insults meekly endured by this hero were little, so long as his journal survived, so long as literature was not stopped, so long as people were printed in it and people read it. Too little! So they heaped the coals of disbandment, destruction and injustice upon him. Within six months these coals had consumed him. Six months later he took to his death-bed, and only his characteristic fortitude sustained him up to now – till the last hour in full consciousness. In suffering.

Third day. Above the coffin is a portrait, in which the dead man is about forty, his brow unfurrowed by sweetly bitter burdens, radiant with that childishly luminescent trust which he carried with him throughout his life, and which was returning to him even when he was already doomed.

To the best music they are bearing wreaths, bearing wreaths . . . “From Soviet fighting men” … As it should be. I remember how the soldiers at the front as one man preferred the marvel of his trusty Tyorkin [123a] to the other wartime books. But we remember too how the army libraries have been forbidden to subscribe to Novy mir. Only recently people have been hauled before their commanding officer for interrogation after reading the light// soft blue journal.

And now the whole gang from the Secretariat [of the Writers’ Union] has flopped onto the scene. The guard of honour comprises those same mortally flabby people who hunted him down with unholy shrieks. This is an old custom of ours, from Pushkin’s day: it is precisely into the hands of his enemies that the dead poet falls. And they hastily dispose of the body, and extract themselves from the situation with glib speeches.

They have crowded round the coffin in a solid ring and think they have fenced it off. They’ve destroyed our only journal and think they’ve won.

You have to know and understand nothing about the last century of Russian history to regard this as a victory, not as an irreparable blunder!

Madmen! When the voices of the young resound, fiercely, how you will miss this patient critic, whose gentle admonitory voice was heeded by all. You will be set to tearing up the earth with your hands, to bring Trifonych back. But then it will be too late.

For the ninth day

Solzhenitsyn

[Commentary No 23]

23.10 Obituary [Alexander Tvardovsky]

NOTES

[123a] Tvardovsky wrote the long poem Vasily Tyorkin, also known as A Book About a Soldier, during the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945). It was printed chapter by chapter in newspapers and magazines and immediately despatched to the Front; it was also read over Soviet radio. Tvardovsky was awarded his second Stalin Prize [1946] for Vasily Tyorkin. (Wikipedia)