Parnakh, Valentin Yakovlevich

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PARNAKH, VALENTIN YAKOVLEVICH (1891–1948?), Russian poet and choreographer. Parnakh was born in Taganrog and educated in St. Petersburg and Paris. His earliest poems, written under the influence of his friend O. *Mandelshtam, were published in the Acmeist literary journal Giperborey ("The Hyperborean") in 1913. On the recommendation of A. Blok, V. Meyerhold accepted Parnakh's poetry for publication in his art journal Lyubov k trem apelsinam ("The Love for the Three Oranges," 3, 1914), to which Parnakh later contributed also essays on the dance. In 1914, he traveled through the Middle East. His first collection of verse, Samum ("The Simoom," 1919), includes several pieces ("To the Palms of Palestine," "The Psalm," "Zechariah, Ch. 11," etc.) inspired by his visit to Ereẓ Israel. During World War i, Parnakh lived in France, England, and Italy, returning to Russia in 1917. His choreographic talent was acknowledged by S. *Eisenstein, who in 1921 invited him to teach modern dance in the Proletkult Drama Workshop. Between 1919 and 1932, Parnakh made several extended trips to France, where he published four collections of experimental poetry in Russian, two scholarly monographs in French (L'Inquisition, 1930; Histoire de la danse, 1932), and numerous essays and translations (in Nouvelle Littéraires, Bifur, Europe, La Courte Paille, and other periodicals of the French avant-garde). Parnakh's essay "In the Russian World of Letters" (The Menorah Journal, 3, 1926) for the first time introduced such Russian-Jewish writers as M. *Gershenzon, O. Mandelshtam, B. *Pasternak, and B. *Lapin to the American-Jewish reader. Parnakh's greatest literary achievement was his annotated anthology of the Jewish poets who were victims of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions (Ispanskiye i portugal-skiya poety, zhertvy inkvizitsii, 1934), published after almost two decades of research. The book contained numerous biographical articles as well as records of trials and autos-da-fé. Its appearance in Moscow on the eve of the Stalinist purges and the Holocaust of European Jewry became a poignant literary event which deeply influenced such poets as Akhmatova and Mandelshtam.

Nothing is known about Parnakh's subsequent life and literary activity, except that his translation of Agrippa d'Aubigné, the French Huguenot poet, was published in 1949 in Moscow. His other works include: Le quai (1919); Karabkaetsya akrobat (with the author's portrait by P. Picasso) (1922); Slovosdvig. Mot dynamo (poems in Russian and French) (1920); Vstuplenie k tantsam (1925).


G. Struve, Russkaya literatura v izgnanii (1956), 161–2; The Prose of Osip Mandelstam (1967), 47–48, 199; S. Eisenstein, Izbr. proizv., i (1964), 267, 639; A. Blok, Zapisnye knizhki (1965), 207, 559; N. Berberova, The Italics Are Mine (1969), 569.

[Omri Ronen]