Ilya Ehrenburg

Poems by Ilya Ehrenburg

Born into the family of an engineer, Ehrenburg spent his youth in Moscow, where he was expelled from the sixth grade of the gymnasium for participation in Bolshevik organizations. In 1908 he emigrated to Paris; France would become a second home for him. His first poetry collection was published there in 1910.

Throughout his life Ehrenburg, a friend of Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, and Louis Aragon, was fated to serve as cultural courier between Russia and Europe.

He considered himself first of all a poet, but there was always an internal struggle among the poet, journalist, and prose writer within him. To his credit he created masterpieces in each of the three genres: the brilliant satirical novel Julio Juretiito (1922), published with a preface by Nikolai Bukharin; poetry depicting the Spanish Civil War; antifascist essays during the Second World War; and newspaper articles during World War II. Journalism, however, with its haste and seductions to carelessness, corroded both his poetry and prose. The novel The Tempest (1948), interesting in its time, is impossible to read today. The novella The Thaw (1954) was artistically weak; however, it gave a precise description of the brief flirtation with liberalism in the time of Khrushchev.

In 1948, together with Irene Joliot-Curie, Yves Farge, and Aleksandr Fadeyev, Ehrenburg was one of the founders of the international peace movement and in 1949 was elected vice president of the World Peace Committee. The Western press and internal gossip frequently accused Ehrenburg of political and moral duplicity. However, in the very difficult position between Europe and Stalin, there is evidence that he did the maximum possible to help defend and support writers and artists in trouble with the regime without crossing the boundary that would have put himself behind barbed wire. To judge Ehrenburg from a distance is easy, to have been Ehrenburg was much more difficult. His memoirs, People, Years, Life, are a priceless resource for understanding the epoch, but it is a pity that many pages were written hastily, with many ellipses.

A bilious, venomous polemicist, he knew how to admire and enjoy the art of others. It was he who first managed to publish Marina Tsvetaeva, to first exhibit Picasso in Moscow, to discover the remarkable poet Boris Slutsky. Ehrenburg abides in a special place in the nation’s memory. During World War II soldiers would never roll cigarettes from any newspaper that contained an article by Ehrenburg; this speaks volumes about him.

1910

1915

1921

1938

1939

1942

1944

1945

in dutch

Iljá Erenbóérg (nederlands)

1941