Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941) ranks with Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, and Boris Pasternak as one of Russia’s greatest twentieth-century poets. Her suicide at the age of forty-eight was the tragic culmination of a life beset by loss and hardship. This volume presents for the first time in English a collection of essays published in the Russian émigré press after Tsvetaeva left Moscow in 1922. Based on diaries she kept from 1917 to 1920, Earthly Signs describes the broad social, economic, and cultural chaos provoked by the Bolshevik Revolution. Events and individuals are seen through the lens of her personal experience—that of a destitute young woman of upper-class background with two small children (one of whom died of starvation), a missing husband, and no means of support other than her poetry.
These autobiographical writings, rich sources of information on Tsvetaeva and her literary contemporaries, are also significant for the insights they provide into the sources and methodology of her difficult poetic language. In addition, they supply a unique eyewitness account of a dramatic period in Russian history, told by a gifted and outspoken poet.