Marina Tsvetaeva is among the great European poets of the twentieth century. With Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelstam, she retained her humanity and integrity through Russia’s ‘terrible years’ of the Great Terror. Even in her long, tragic exile, her roots were in Russia and the great tradition of Russian poetry. Her voice lives in part because it remains alert to her past, and to cultures, especially French, where she spent her exile.
When Elaine Feinstein first read Tsvetaeva’s poems in the 1960s, they transformed her. Their intensity and honesty spoke to her directly. To her first translations, published to acclaim in 1971, she added in later years, not least the sequence ‘Girlfriend’, dedicated to her lover Sofia Parnok. Feinstein published Tsvetaeva’s biography in 1987.