Karolina Pavlova Introduction

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(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Karolina Pavlova 1807‐-1893

(Full name Karolina Karlovna Pavlova) Russian poet, novelist, short story writer, and translator.

Pavlova is acknowledged as Russia's greatest nineteenth-century woman poet and the first woman of letters in Russia. Despite this, she had a mixed career and even today suffers a reputation as a marginal figure in world literature. Her greatest literary contribution was the development of the “story in verse.”

Biographical Information

Pavlova was born Karolina Jänisch; in Yaroslavl, Russia, on July 10, 1807 to a German father and a French-English mother. Pavlova spoke four languages by the time she was five and took an early interest in drawing and writing poetry. Her father, Karl Andreevich Janisch, educated her at home, where she excelled at her studies. At the age of nineteen, Pavlova met Adam Mickiewicz, the great Polish poet who became her Polish language teacher. The two began a love affair and planned to marry, but the relationship ended in 1829. In the late 1820s Pavlova began translating Russian poetry into German and quickly made a name for herself in literary circles. In 1829 she began exchanging verse letters with the poets Evgenii Abramovich Baratynsky and Nikolai Mikhailovich Iazykov. By the time Pavlova had published her first book of translations, Das Nordlicht (1833), she had established herself as one of the finest translators of Russian poetry. Luminaries such as Johann Wolfgang von Goëthe praised Pavlova's ability to render the subtler aspects of poetry in her translations. When she was thirty, Pavlova married the writer Nikolai Filippovich Pavlov.

In the early 1840s Pavlova was known for her Moscow literary salon, where many of the literati of the day gathered. The salon provided a venue for exponents of the two major social philosophies of the day—the “Slavophiles” and the “Westernizers”—to debate their ideas. Pavlova was associated with the “Slavophile” movement, which emphasized Slavic cultural supremacy over western European influences. She was also a central figure in the Russian “Art for Art's Sake” movement. While Pavlova's salon made her a prominent figure, her German ethnicity and gender caused some antipathy among her peers. She had a reputation for being haughty, “unwomanly,” and overly theatrical in her love of poetry and art. Despite this, Pavlova’s novel, Dvoinaia zhizn' (A Double Life) was well received at its publication in 1848.

Meanwhile, Pavlova's husband gambled away her fortune and set up a separate household with one of her cousins, with whom he had two children. In 1852, Pavlova's father arranged for Pavlov's house to be raided. Pavlov was arrested for possessing banned books and then exiled to Perm. Pavlov's liberal friends and associates saw this as an act of treachery on Pavlova's part and she was thereafter shunned by Moscow literary society. Shortly after this her father died of cholera. When Pavlova did not attend the funeral, she was again heavily criticized. By the mid-1850s she was exiled from the Russian literary scene. Having completely fallen out with her literary associates, Pavlova left Russia for Derpt, Estonia, where she fell in love with a law student named Boris Utin. In 1854 she followed Utin to St. Petersburg and tried, unsuccessfully, to reestablish her literary reputation. By 1855 Pavlova moved to Dresden, Germany after separating from Utin. She continued to translate, focusing on the works of Aleksei Konstantinovich Tolstoi, who became her close friend. In 1868, Pavlova returned to Russia briefly to read from one of her translations. She was not well received and returned to Dresden. Pavlova died alone, without family, friends, money, or reputation, on December 2, 1893.

Major Works

Pavlova first achieved fame by translating Russian poetry into German. Her translations of works by Alexander Pushkin, Iazykov, and others were collected in Das Nordlicht. The volume included several of Pavlova's original poems, but it was...

(The entire section is 1,349 words.)