: 06 2021
: http://literary.ru (c)

© Valentina PIMNEVA, Anzhelika DORMIDONTOVA

by Valentina PIMNEVA, director of the Literary Museum-Center of K. Paustovsky, Anzhelika DORMIDONTOVA, Cand. Sc. (Cult.), academic secretary of the same museum

On May 31, 2012, our country marks the 120th birth anniversary of an outstanding Russian writer of the 20th century, a master of lyrical prose, Konstantin Paustovsky. The words that he had once written about the great Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen sound like an allegory revealing the role of his own works: "He used to collect grains of poetry from peasants' fields, warmed them in his heart, planted them in low huts, and these seeds grew and blossomed into beautiful flowers of poetry that rejoiced the hearts of the poor."

Konstantin Paustovsky. 1960s.

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In his book The Story of Life (1965) Paustovsky wrote: "I had to endure almost everything that could happen in the world to a person of the age, when, according to Yesenin, 'it's time to collect one's perishable belongings for a journey'." When he decided to become a writer in his early youth on the threshold of the 20th century, full of tragic events, he was convinced that his destiny was not to hide from life, but to strive to pass its schooling: "Since childhood I have wanted to see and experience everything man can see and experience."

In 1914, on leaving Moscow University, twenty-two-year old Konstantin worked first as a tram conductor, then as an orderly on a hospital train in the rear. As it was during the First World War, it was the only way for him to get to the front, because as the youngest son in the family, he could not be legally called up. After returning from the front, Paustovsky changed many places of residence and work, leading a vagabond life. The revolutionary events of the 1917 forced him to return to Moscow, where he became a newspaper reporter ("... the restless and noisy tribe of journalists seemed to me the best environment fora writer").

At first Paustovsky accepted the October revolution; he connected with it his hopes for renewal of life, freedom of human choice and creativity. But soon he got disappointed. Here's a fragment from his book, written in 1920, but first published only in 2005 in the cultural-educational magazine The World of Paustovsky, which was established by our museum in 1992: "Russia has never before seen such deaf, cast-iron time. As if the earth had turned black from coagulated blood. The grinning mouth of the great lout... When the Civil War was over and 'peaceful construction' ('the labor front') began, everyone saw at once that the 'king was naked', and all his power lay only in war, in the destructive energy of malice, in horror, in Makhno fighters... In order to create, one needs a free soul and baby fingers, and not a sour mind, moth-eaten by the party program and by three years of anger... A new era of supporting intellectuals, professors, artists, and writers began. Perhaps, nourished by bitter, soaked in blood, bread, they would create some tedious babble--'the great art of the proletariat, of class hatred'. Lord, let this cup pass from me."

Fortunately, Paustovsky escaped "this cup". This, of course, does credit to him. He refused in principle to work within the strict bounds of social realism and fulfill social order. His honesty and integrity, innate rejection of falsehood and hypocrisy did not allow him to write "as was required". Paustovsky and his close friends--the well-known writers Isaac Babel, Arkady Gaidar, Edouard Bagritsky--were in creative opposition to official Soviet literature.

During the Great Patriotic War, Konstantin Paustovsky worked as a war correspondent at the Southern Front (summer of 1941), wrote essays and accounts from the front. He participated in the defense of Odessa. He was greatly respected by commanders and men, who highly rated his ability to find warm, heart-felt words about people at war and his simple manners. "Snow" (1943) and "Rainy Dawn" (1945) are among the best stories of those years.


The creative work of Paustovsky continues traditions of classical Russian literature, traditions of Anton Chekhov*, Alexander Kuprin and Ivan Bunin** (Nobel

* See: Yu. Balabanova, "Seven Years in Melikhovo", Science in Russia, No. l,2010.--Ed.

** See: P. Fokin, "The Singer of Autumn and Sadness", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2011.--Ed.

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Prizewinner, 1933), who blessed the writer in the 1920s: "I think that your true destiny, your real poetry is prose. I'm sure that it is in prose, that, in case you show sufficient perseverance, you'd achieve something significant. Yours, I. Bunin." Time had passed and in 1947 in a letter from Paris Bunin called him "dear colleague", and his work "The Tavern on the Braginka"--one of the best stories in Russian literature.

In the story The Four, published in the Kiev magazine Rytsar (Knight) in 1913, the writer--a student at that time--focused on the main subject of his work--Man and Nature. "Let's create ourselves and straighten our bent and downtrodden souls. Let's seek, think and look at the world with curiosity and sensitivity. We must listen to ourselves. It is necessary to understand and love the whole inexpressible harmony of the world and God, and the tale that lies deeply hidden in each of us. More joy, more thoughtfulness and courage to think..."

Man is destined to exist simultaneously in two worlds--Nature and Culture. It is only in their harmonious unity that a perfect habitat can be born. Personal formation, definition of moral ideals, understanding of history and heritage of mankind is impossible, according to the master, without the knowledge of natural laws, without a careful, thoughtful and careful attitude to it. However, the main objective of the author is to serve Man.

In the early 1930s, Paustovsky visited the Caspian Sea, where, in the lifeless Kara-Bugaz-Gol bay, the

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large-scale works on mirabilite* deposits were in progress. In 1932, Paustovsky published a novel Kara-Bugaz, which brought him wide national recognition. The typical of the author, romantic attitude determined the subject of the work, its main characters and an artistic method. He tells about new transformers of the world but his characters are unlike the monumental images that had been created by the Soviet writers in those years, as the book is based on true histories of real people. The novel Kara-Bugaz became one of the favorite books of the generation, which believed in a bright future for their country and which strived to lead a vibrant and meaningful life.

In this well-known work, as well as in another one, now almost forgotten-The Theory of Captain Gernet (1933), and also in the stories Colchis (1934) and Black Sea (1936), the author continues the subject of the relationship between Man and Nature. He confronts his characters and readers with problems that are relevant even today: Is man the host of nature? Can we transform it harmlessly? Paustovsky answers these questions in The Tale of Life (in the book The Spurt to the South): "I think the world is equally worthy of slow, fruitful contemplation and reasonable, powerful action. Contemplation-one of the foundations of creativity and love for the land, primarily for one's own native land."

Paustovsky believed that contemplation, or cognition of all things through sensory experiences, understanding of the innerworld of man through immersion in Nature, should encourage reasonable and careful influence on the environment, thus promoting harmonious cooperation of humans with it. It seems that the writer himself was able to reveal many secrets of Nature and to establish a dialog with it. The memories of the famous pianist Mariya Yudina, who was present at the last farewell to Konstantin Paustovsky: "... domestic animals, dogs, cats, goats... and especially poultry--all were present there in full force: cocks flew up to the roof, welcoming the parade with their cries, violently waving brightly colored wings, hens clucked, geese cackled in a full trance, dogs and cats ran among the crowd trying to comprehend an incomprehensible event... The funeral was not only a nation-wide happening, but in it was the true universal greatness of Rus: all God's creatures gathered to... pay the last respect to Paustovsky."


The works of the writer have a noble mission--to educate human soul. In this sense, Paustovsky's books for children and dedicated to great talents of world culture are of a particular importance.

Konstantin Paustovsky had his own attitude to children's literature. In 1944, in an article The City of Masters, he wrote: "Children should be introduced to the world of big ideas, classical images, to all diversity and richness of life." The thoughts which the writer refers to the younger generation are consonant with traditional Russian fairy tales: Kindness and Beauty are major miracles in man's life, and he can perform them if he has a light heart and a creative mind. It is remarkable that contemporary children perceive Paustovsky's works in the similar way as children in the 1930s: they sympathize with characters, rejoice and grieve with them, feel and intuitively distinguish the most important ideas addressed to the readers.

* Mirabilite, or Glauber's salt--used in glass and soda production, also in medicine.--Ed.

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By creating a number of works about great artists, musicians, writers, Paustovsky opened a special world for many people--the world of creativity and beauty. Through these stories written in his characteristic poetic manner, the author forms an aesthetic taste in his readers. He manages to be a tutor avoiding an edifying and mentoring tone. He was one of those teachers who did not like to teach, as a famous Russian poet of the 20th century Bulat Okudzhava subtly remarked in his memoirs about the writer.

Nevertheless, for many years Paustovsky taught at the Moscow Literary Institute named after A. Gorky and formed a galaxy of such great writers as Yuri Bondarev, Grigory Baklanov, Lev Krivenko, Vladimir Tendryakov and

Yuri Trifonov. Many other writers, who were not his actual students but received his blessing and support at the beginning of their careers, regarded themselves as his students. After all, Paustovsky had an amazing gift--to feel a talent and true literature. In his book Memories of Paustovsky (M.: Sovetsky Pisatel, 1975), Yuri Bondarev writes: "Paustovsky the writer and Paustovsky the man have merged together. He was open-hearted and generous. Meetings with Paustovsky at the seminars at the Literary Institute were a real festive occasion... His communication with students inspired to write better, to love life and literature as he did. He told them about the significance and ponderability of each word, an accuracy of a single found epithet, the rhythm of prose... he talked

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about the urgency, vigilance and ruthlessness of the writer's eye... Listening to seminars of Paustovsky we realized for the first time that the works of the writer are 'sweet hard labor' of man by fate and talent chained to a desk every day."

His work The Golden Rose (1956)--"notes on understanding of writing" is a kind of testament to all who are engaged in literary work and who are studying literary works. Here is an excerpt about one of the secrets of this trade: "I believe that to fully master the Russian language, in order not to lose the sense of this language, it is necessary not only to constantly communicate with the simple Russian people, but to communicate with pastures and forests, water, old willows, singing of birds and with every flower that nods its head from under a hazel bush." In the preface to the book, the author wrote: "... if I have ever managed to convey to the reader an idea of the beautiful nature of literary work, I would assume that I've fulfilled my duty to literature."

Though a world famous writer, Konstantin Paustovsky never used his fame and prestige. Until his last days he remained an honest and modest man. If, however, he felt that he could help talented people or stop injustice, he did everything in his power: phoned, wrote, and acted in defense. In the late 1950s-early 1960s Paustovsky did much to bring back to the readers an opportunity to enjoy the prose of Alexander Green, Isaac Babel, Yuri Olesha--remarkable national writers whose works had not been reprinted for many years. He defended Vladimir Dudintsev, Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsyn-the writers who were persecuted by the authorities. Being seriously ill, shortly before his death, in the summer of 1968, he saved the Taganka Theater, and its chief director Yuri Lyubimov. When he found out that the Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers (1964-1980) Alexei Kosygin was an admirer of his talent, the writer phoned him and said: "Dying Paustovsky speaking. I beg you not to ruin cultural values of our country. If you dismiss Lyubimov, this will be an end of the theater." For a long time, this episode had been known only to a limited number of people close to Paustovsky, namely, the famous national poet and writer Kornei Chukovsky, who later on wrote about it in his diary. Only in 2005, the famous director Lyubimov confirmed this fact in an interview to The World of Paustovsky magazine.

It is necessary to mention here yet another selfless and courageous step of Paustovsky in his declining years. The literary miscellany Tarusa Pages (1961), which published for the first time poems and prose of the writers turned down by official literature, who later on became famous and loved by readers--Nikolai Zabolotsky, Bulat Okudzhava, Naum Korzhavin, David Samoilov, Boris Baiter, Vladimir Kornilov, Boris Slutsky, Yuri Kazakov, and Vladimir Koblikov, was a significant phenomenon in social and cultural life of the 1960s. In fact, Kaluga publishers planned to release a book by Paustovsky, but the writer declined the proposal and suggested to publish the works of the above-mentioned talented young writers instead. He entered the editorial board of the literary miscellany.

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The works of Paustovsky have become classics of national literature; they are topical even today. The author brings up burning issues and provides moral guiding lines necessary for each of us. The problems of nature conservation and protection of cultural environment ("ecology of culture"--according to the outstanding national philologist, Academician Dmitry Likhachev), patriotism and love for the native language were always disturbing topics for thinking and responsible people. Let us recall the words from the letter-will of Paustovsky, born through suffering: "We lived on this Earth. Do not surrender it to those who destroy, to vulgar and ignorant people. We are descendants of Pushkin and it is a great responsibility." Books of Paustovsky possess a remarkable feature--they bring people together regardless of their age, nationality, religion and political views. This is one of the most important challenges facing the humanity.

By the end of his life Paustovsky became widely known not only in the Soviet Union: his books were translated into European languages and he had a great number of admirers abroad. Along with the novel by Mikhail Sholokhov And Quiet Flows the Don, The Tale of Life by Paustovsky was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1965.

Still, the writer, not pampred by official awards, did not seek these benefits: "1 want to leave a dim but pleasant memory after myself. Dim as a fleeting smile... Smile at me in the end. I'll accept this smile as a great and undeserving gift and take it with me into that strange world where there is 'neither disease, nor sorrow, nor complaints, but where there's life eternal."

Today, admirers of Konstantin Paustovsky come to the Moscow Literary Museum-Center named after him--Russia's only museum dedicated to the memory of the famous writer. By getting acquainted with our exposition, with materials of the World of Paustovsky magazine, watching stills of newsreels and film versions of his works, people continue their discussions with him about the things that are important to them. It is nice to see how all visitors-including children-leave our hospitable House with a smile. Perhaps, the visit helped someone to meet real literature.

The research staff of the museum-center is working on a new exhibition, which will present the writer's personality and his difficult path to finding happiness and peace of mind, his Home--a symbol of the harmonious unity of Man, Nature and Society, The main storyline will be the motif of a wandering poetic soul in space and time. Visitors will enter not a traditional museum with memorial interiors and familiar showcases--but the world of a lyrical Hero.

Our collections have 17,000 items, a lot of materials about the life and work of the writer, his personal belongings, manuscripts, photographic, cinematographic and video documents. We are trying to enlarge this collection, to systematize all existing valuable materials. Of course, it is also very important to continue studies of the biography and literary heritage of Konstantin Paustovsky; we regularly organize scientific conferences in Moscow and other places associated with his creative work (St. Petersburg, Ryazan, Odessa) for this purpose. A large part of the museum activity is dedicated to promoting the works of Paustovsky in Russia and abroad. Thus, there is a cultural and educational program with thematic tours, lectures, literary and musical evenings for adults and children.

2012 is a special year for all admirers of Konstantin Paustovsky, and we are preparing for a significant date. In honor of the forthcoming jubilee, World of Paustovsky No. 30 and a collection of Unknown Paustovsky, will be published, for the first time, the diaries and the writer's works from the museum funds will be published on its pages. In addition, schoolchildren will be able to take part in the contest of children's literary and artistic works "The Tale Will Live Forever", consisting of two nominations--artistic illustration of the works of Paustovsky, and poetry and prose in the genre of fairy-tales.

In anticipation of celebrations, in 2011, there started the "Museum Mail" project: its participants are sending telegrams, letters, and fiction books to our museum-center. All messages are answered, and the best authors will be encouraged. Thus, we hope to expand the circle of friends of Paustovsky's House.

Finally, in May 29-31, 2012, the museum-center and the Institute of World Literature named after A. Gorky, RAS, are planning an international scientific conference "Literary Heritage of K. Paustovsky and World Culture." Scholars from Russia, Ukraine, the Netherlands, France and China will take part in the symposium.

All, who will take part in jubilee festivities and visit the museum-center and the writer's house in Tarusa, will have an opportunity to get acquainted with the poetic world of Paustovsky, who was confident that the time of vulgar persons, ignoramuses and destroyers would pass, "the land will be tempered,--then, in that epoch of flourishing, will come your time, dear friends!" His words, addressed to the living and future generations, we hope, will find response in their hearts.

Valentina PIMNEVA, Anzhelika DORMIDONTOVA, POETIC WORLD OF PAUSTOVSKY // : " ", LITERARY.RU. : 06 2021. URL: http://literary.ru/literary.ru/readme.php?subaction=showfull&id=1633507308&archive= ( : 19.01.2022).

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