Boris Pasternak: At the Paris Anti-Fascist Conference, 1935

pst2“Sketch of Boris Pasternak, allegedly made by Pablo Picasso at the International Conference for the Defense of Culture, the great anti-Fascist gathering of world artists and thinkers in Paris, in June 1935. A Soviet delegation was invited. But when Pasternak — suffering mentally and physically and out of favour with the Stalinist regime — was not included, Andre Malraux, one of the main forces behind the Conference, insisted that he and Isaac Babel be sent. The next day, Pasternak was confronted by Soviet officials who bundled him onto a plane, provided him with an ill-fitting suit and sent him to the West. Pasternak, in a feverish and dazed condition, took part in the conference along with such luminaries as Andre Gide, E.M. Foster, Robert Musil, Heinrich Mann, Berolt Brecht, Aldous Huxley, Theodore Dreiser, Rosamond Lehmann, W.H. Auden and others. One of the only two photographers present, Gisèle Freund, took down part of Pasternak’s address to the Conference: ‘[Poetry] will always be in the grass, it will always be necessary to bend over to see it, it will always be too simple to be discussed in assemblies. It will always remain the organic function of a happy being, overflowing with all the felicity of language, lying contracted in the native heart ever heavy with its load, and the more happy men there are, the easier it will be to be an artist.’ The sketch here was found in a Paris bookshop in the 1980s, in the leaves of a used, battered copy of Pasternak’s early work, ‘My Sister Life.’ Its original attribution to Picasso is now largely thought to be mistaken; there is no record of Picasso attending the Conference or meeting Pasternak while he was in Paris.” Pencil sketch.

About Chris Floyd

Tennessee. Moscow. Oxford.
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