Odoevtseva, Irina (c. 1895–1990)

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Odoevtseva, Irina (c. 1895–1990)

Russian novelist and poet. Name variations: Iraida Gustavovna Heinecke (also seen as Geinike); Iraida Gustavovna Ivanova; Irina Odóevtseva or Irina Vladimorovna Odoyevtseva. Born Iraida Gustavovna Heinecke (also seen as Geinike) in 1895 (some sources cite 1901, but 1895 is generally considered more likely) in Riga, Latvia; died in October 1990; father was a lawyer and landlord; married Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov (a poet), in September 1921 (died 1958); married Iakov Nikolaevich Gorbov (a novelist), in March 1978 (died 1982).

Selected writings—novels:

Angel smerti (Angel of Death, 1927), Izolda (1931), Zerkalo (Mirror, 1939), Naslediye (Heritage, n.d.), Ostav nadezhdu navsegda (All Hope Abandon, 1954); poetry: Dvor chudes (Court of Wonders, 1922), Kontrapunkt (1951), Stikhi napisannye vo vremya bolezni (Verses Written While Ill, 1952), Stikhi (1960), Desyat let (Ten Years, 1961), Odinochestvo (Solitude, 1965), Zlataya tsep (The Golden Chain, 1975); memoirs: Na beregakh Nevy (On the Banks of the Neva, 1967), Na beregakh Seny (On the Banks of the Seine, 1983).

Born Iraida Gustavovna Heinecke in Riga, Latvia, probably in 1895, Irina Odoevtseva (a pseudonym) was the youngest member of the St. Petersburg Poets Guild. Other members of the Guild included Georgii Ivanov, whom she married in September 1921, and Georgii Adamovich. She published her first volume of poetry, Dvor chudes (Court of Wonders), in St. Petersburg in 1922, after which she left Russia with her husband. They settled in Paris, where they were active in émigré literary circles, including Zinaida Gippius ' Green Lamp society, and by the 1930s her husband had become one of the most prominent émigré poets. During this period, Odoevtseva concentrated on writing prose, and published several novels, including Angel smerti (Angel of Death, 1927), Izolda (1931), and Zerkalo (Mirror, 1939). The public enjoyed these stories, which are usually classified as light reading rather than serious literature, and they were translated into several languages.

Odoevtseva and her husband lived comfortably on money provided by her father, and later by his estate, until the start of World War II. After the Nazis occupied France, and their home was bombed, lack of money for necessities forced them to sell many of their personal possessions. In the postwar years, both suffered from health problems, and sales of their literary works provided their sole, and erratic, income. Odoevtseva again began writing poetry during this time, although it was the money she obtained for her novel Ostav nadezhdu navsegda (All Hope Abandon, 1954) which enabled her and her husband to move to a retirement home in the south of France. Among her later collections of poetry were Kontrapunkt (1951), Stikhi napisannye vo vremya bolezni (1952), Stikhi (1960), Desyat'et (1961), and Odinochestvo (1965). This mature poetry was noted for its formal discipline, which contrasted sharply with its irony and combination of real and surreal images. After her husband's death in 1958, Odoevtseva moved to Gagny, near Paris, and joined the staff of the journal Russkaia mysl'. In 1967, she published a volume of literary memoirs, Na beregakh Nevy (On the Banks of the Neva). She married for a second time in March 1978, to novelist Iakov Gorbov, who died in September 1982. The following year, she published a second volume of memoirs, Na beregakh Seny (On the Banks of the Seine). She returned in 1987 to St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad), where a new interest in and appreciation of the cultural achievement of Russian émigrés was taking place; a selection of her poems was published in a Russian journal the following year. Irina Odoevtseva died in October 1990.


Bede, Jean-Albert, and William B. Edgerton, general eds. Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature. NY: Columbia University Press, 1980.

Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

suggested reading:

Foster, L.A. Bibliografiia russkoi zarubezhnoi literatury, 1918–1968. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1970.

Handbook of Russian Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.

Markov, V., and M. Sparks, eds. Modern Russian Poetry.

Odoevtseva, I.V. Na beregakh Seny. Paris: La Presse libre, 1983.

Sabova, A. "Snova na beregakh Nevy," afterword to I.V. Odoevtseva, Na beregakh Nevy. Moskva: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1988.

Struve, Gleb. Russkaia literatura v izgnanii. Paris: YMCA-Press, 1984.


The Irina Odoevtseva Papers are held in the general collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

Jo Anne Anne , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont