Russell, (Irwin) Peter 1921-2003
RUSSELL, (Irwin) Peter 1921-2003
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born September 16, 1921, in Bristol, England; died January 22, 2003, in San Giovanni Valdarno, Italy. Publisher, bookseller, poet, editor, translator, and author. Russell was the multi-talented, eccentric poet who produced the elegies of Quintilius in three volumes between 1954 and 1997. So true were Russell's writings to the style and spirit of the late Roman Empire when the fictional Quintilius purportedly lived that at least one critic mistook the elegies for bona fide translations. Russell wrote poetry in England in the 1940s and 1950s, simultaneously operating bookshops and publishing the work of other poets, notably Ezra Pound, through Pound Press, which he founded in 1950. Russell also edited various works by Pound and others, and he was the editor of the literary journal Nine, wherein were published the work of lesser-known authors of the time, including early translations of Jorge Luis Borges and Osip Mandelstam. Russell had a special talent for languages; he was fluent in Italian and commanded several others, both classical and modern, European and Asian and Arabic. In the mid-sixties, Russell traveled to Venice at the invitation of Pound and spent the rest of his life there in self-imposed exile—and often in great penury. He wrote prodigiously throughout those years, though many of his volumes were published only in Italian. His adopted country appreciated the poet's work, awarding him the Dante Alighieri prize and the Florentine Premio le muse. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 2001. Russell's English-language poetry collections include Picnic to the Moon, Dreamland and Drunkenness, and Living Death. Because so much of his work was privately printed in small editions, Russell's most lasting legacy may be the trilogy comprised of Three Elegies of Quintilius, The Elegies of Quintilius, and The Apocalypse of Quintilius.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Independent (London, England), January 28, 2003, obituary by Richard Burns, p. 18.
Times (London, England), January 29, 2003, p. 31.