Three letters and signed book by Boris Pasternak (1890-1960), the letters and inscription are unpublished.
1. Pasternak, Boris. Okhrannaia gramota [i.e. The Protection]. Leningrad, 1931. 128 pp. 18x12,5 cm. In original cardboards. First edition of Pasternak’s autobiographical book, dedicated to his pre-revolutionary life. Inscribed by Pasternak on the half-title: “To Ilamaz Mitsishvili for the happiness and memory of those magnificent hours, that I spent at his mother’s house. B. Pasternak. 27 of February. 1959”. Covers are slightly rubbed.
2. Three letters with three envelopes, the addresses on them all are in poet’s hand. 1 p., 1,5 pp., 2 pp.
This little archive tells the story of Pasternak’s trip to Georgia half a year after he received Nobel Prize and a year before he passed away. All three letters addressed to Marina Nikolaevna Mitsishvili, the daughter of one of the leaders of Georgian symbolism, poet Niko Mitsishvili (1896-1937). Mitsishvili was one of the founders of ‘Blue Horns’, the literary group that was
dominating the Georgian poetic scene in the 1910-1920s. In 1922 he published the book ‘Gruzinskie poety’ that became the first anthology of the contemporary Georgian verse in Russian. Boris Pasternak met him in 1930 and they became friends, through Mitsishvili as well as Paolo Yashvili, Titstian Tabidze, Georgii Leonidze Pasternak got to know contemporary and classical Georgian lyrics and fell in love with it - that resulted in the famous 1935 publication ‘Gruzinskie liriki’, that included the translations by Boris Pasternak of the different poets. Mitsishvili has been executed in 1937 along with other friends of Boris Pasternak, but he remained on good terms with his family - wife, son Ilamaz and daughter Marina.
In 1958 Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for his novel ‘Doctor Zhivago’, and the campaign against him began in Soviet media and literary circles. It’s well-known that Boris Leonidovich has been suffering deeply because of such proscription. In the begging of 1959 he was asked to leave Moscow and he went to Tbilisi, where he spent less than a month, living at the apartment of Titsian Tabidze with his family. According to numerous memoirs and interviews of Pasternak’s Georgian friends, he was welcomed, greeted like the first poet in country and his spirits
were lifted. One of the evenings Pasternak spent at Mitsishvili’s widow house, and inscribed her son Ilamaz the copy of his book.
One of the people who spent time with him in Tbilisi was Marina Mitsishvili, archaeologist, who has organised a personal tour around Tbilisi museums for the poet. After his trip Pasternak engaged in the correspondence with her, the first letter is dated 2nd of April, 1959 (and in it Pasternak writes that he has sent from Moscow some books for his friends in Tbilisi, including her. He writes “What I was writing for the last 20 years was never published, so I couldn’t send anything of my own so I’m sending the translations”. He writes about the copy of ‘Faust’ he’s sending to Marina: “Read the whole tragedy, but not all at once, of course you’d find a lot of dead flesh (for example, the masquerades, the joys of the imperial court, it’s all foolish symbolism), but there are a lot of genius parts, they are fresh and powerful like the nature itself”. After that Pasternak inquiries about the second names of several of common friends in Tbilisi, apologising extensively and asking Marina to write back as soon as possible.
The second letter is dated the 6th of May, 1959. From the context we find out that the ‘Faust’ that Pasternak mentioned in the previous letter never reached Marina and he writes that that book along with the others was sent with Georgii Margvelashvili 1,5 months ago. He gives the list of the people who were expected signed books and then writes: “But what has happened to the books? Please if you have a spare minute go to Georgii Georgievich and ask about them, maybe he forgot them on the train or lost them somehow”. According to Marina’s brother the book has
been lost and never showed up.
The third letter is dated 8th of December, 1959 in which Pasternak thanks Marina for sending him the book on ancient Georgia (“I’m grateful for this brilliant book, that I didn’t deserve and now I don’t know what to send in return”). He also mentions that has been receiving various books about early Christianity from abroad and feels guilty he’s not interested in this topic anymore. It’s known that in 1959 Pasternak was researching Georgian early history, planning to write a novel, but that has never started it. In the end of the letter, that became the last one received by
Marina Nikolaevna Mitsishvili the poet mentions that he’s not feeling too well at times.