Vladislav Felitsianovich Khodasevich was born in Moscow on May 28 (May 16, Old Style), 1886. Neither his father nor his mother was a native Russian (Felitsian Khodasevich was Polish, Sophie Brafman a Jewish convert to Catholicism and a fervent Polish nationalist), but perhaps as much because of his background as despite it, young Khodasevich considered himself thoroughly Russian in both allegiance and sensibility. The youngest of six children, he was educated at Moscow’s Third Classical Gimnazium. Even before he left school, his ambitions turned to writing, and it was through a schoolmate that he made his first shy forays into the febrile world of fin de siècle Moscow literary life—the world of Valery Bryusov, Andrey Bely, and Aleksandr Blok. After graduation, Khodasevich began writing and publishing, and except for an almost comic bureaucratic interlude immediately after the revolution, he practiced no other profession.
Chronic ill health aggravated by hardship and privation kept Khodasevich out of military service during World War I and the Russian Revolution. In April of 1921, Khodasevich moved with his second wife, Anna Chulkova, and her son Garik to St. Petersburg, the abandoned capital, to work and live in the subsidized House of the Arts. It was there that Khodasevich, in a concentrated burst of energy, wrote many of his finest poems. Roughly one year later, however, spurred by private difficulties and by doubts about the future for writers in...
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