327
327
Yevtushenko, Yevgeni
AN EARLY DRAFT OF THE POET'S MOST CELEBRATED POEM, "BABI YAR"
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT
327
Yevtushenko, Yevgeni
AN EARLY DRAFT OF THE POET'S MOST CELEBRATED POEM, "BABI YAR"
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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Yevtushenko, Yevgeni
AN EARLY DRAFT OF THE POET'S MOST CELEBRATED POEM, "BABI YAR"
Autograph manuscript signed ("Yev. Yevtushenko, Kiev"), 6 pages (9 1/8 x 6 1/4 in.; 232 x 158 mm) in black ink, Kiev, c. 1961–63.
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Catalogue Note

An early draft of "Babi Yar," one of the most influential and celebrated poems of the 20th century. This great poem commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the massacre of over 75,000 Jewish civilians by German troops on 22 June 1941 near Kiev. The bodies were stacked in Babi Yar (Grandmother's Ravine).  In 1961, the government of the Soviet Union still had not acknowledged this unimaginable slaughter of most of the members of Kiev's Jewish community. Yevtushenko's bold poem not only memorializes the victims of the massacre, he also indicts the Soviet government and people for their suppression of the facts and for their blatant antisemitism. Although other poets have commemorated the massacre, it was Yevtushenko's "Babi Yar" which had a devastating impact felt round the world. The poem first circulated in 'samizdfat.' It was eventually published in 'Literaturnaya Gazeta.' Dimitri Shostakovick set it to music as the first movement of his Thirteenth Symphony.

The present draft is similar to the published version, except that it does not contain the two stanzas which describe the actual slaughter of the Jews, the cries of the children and old men being shot, and other atrocities.

In February 1963, Yevtushenko traveled to Paris for the publication of the first edition in French of his poetry. French journalists demanded to know if the poet had altered the poem, widely seen in the West as an attack on Russian antisemitism, to please the Soviet government. The poet denied this and claimed he rewrote the part of the poem which charges Russia with antisemitism "in order not to furnish a bludgeon for our enemies." The French pressed Yevtusheno on the status of antisemitism in Russia and he responded that antisemitism "is no more of a problem in Russia than it is in many other countries. Every nation has its fools."

A parallel transcription in Russian of the present manuscript version and the published version of the poem is available from the Books and Manuscripts Department.

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