Ivanov, Georgy Vladimirovich Ivanov [Иванов, Георгий Владимирович] (1894–1958) By Chandler, Robert
Along with Khodasevich and Tsvetaeva, Georgy Ivanov was one of the three great Russian poets of émigré Paris – and the most important representative of the so-called ‘Parisian Note’.
As a young man in St Petersburg, he had been close to the Acmeists. For several years after settling in Paris with his wife, the poet and memoirist Irina Odoevtseva, he wrote little, but in the early 1930s he began writing the poems by which he is remembered – poems of brilliant despair that both anticipate Existentialism and look back to the French Symbolists, and to their Russian translator, Innokenty Annensky. He went on writing better and better, his formal grace coexisting with an ever more startling emotional directness. He composed much of his finest work during his last few months, when he knew he was dying.
Ivanov was a controversial figure. Several memoirs portray him as a monster of egotism, nihilism and worse. He incurred the fury of Anna Akhmatova, Nadezhda Mandelstam and others by publishing a memoir, Petersburg Winters, that mixes fact, rumour and fantasy. He was accused of Nazi sympathies and even of complicity in a murder in St Petersburg. It is now clear that these rumours were unfounded.