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Circles of influence: Katherine Mansfield, S.S. Koteliansky and Russia

Kimber, G. (2015) Circles of influence: Katherine Mansfield, S.S. Koteliansky and Russia. In: Ailwood, S. and Harvey, M. (eds.) Ailwood, Sarah and Harvey, Melinda Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 78-90.

Item Type: Book Section
Abstract: Katherine Mansfield is recognised today as one of the leading exponents of the modernist short story, with interest in her work at an all time high. Her literary debt to the Russian writer Anton Chekhov is well documented, but in fact she maintained a lifelong obsession with all things Russian, culminating in her death at Fontainebleau, surrounded by émigré Russians at George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff’s esoteric community, the ‘Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man’. As a young writer Mansfield toyed with Russian sounding pseudonyms: Katya, Katerina, Kissienka and Katoushka, wore Russian costume, smoked Russian cigarettes and attended Russian concerts and the ballet. As co-editor with John Middleton Murry of one of the earliest modernist journals, Rhythm, she was able to bring her fascination with all things Russian to the attention of others. She used the Russian pseudonym ‘Boris Petrovsky’ to place several of her poems in the journal and by issue 7 in August 1912, Rhythm could even boast its own ‘Russian Correspondent’, Michael Lykiardopoulos, almost certainly as a result of Mansfield’s influence, as I shall reveal. In 1914 Mansfield and Murry met the Russian émigré Samuel Solomonovich Koteliansky (1880-1955), always known as ‘Kot’, to whom she remained devoted (despite the occasional period of estrangement) until her death. After Mansfield and Murry left their house in St John’s Wood in London in October 1915, following the death of her young brother Leslie (killed in a hand grenade incident on the Belgian-French border), Kot took over the lease of the house and remained there until his death in 1955. Beatrice Campbell reveals how Mansfield’s image was constantly in his mind, almost as if she had still been alive. ‘Her’ pear tree in the garden, the guilder rose she had planted, the lock of hair she had once given him, the chair she used to sit in when she wrote – all were devotedly preserved. On a professional level Mansfield and Kot worked together on translations from the Russian. Unpublished collaborations included ‘Maxim Gorky’s Journal of the Revolution’ in 1918. In April 1919, the first of a thirteen part series of collaborative translations of Chekhov’s letters appeared in the Athenaeum. In 1922, the pair worked on a translation of Gorky’s Reminiscences of Leonid Andreyev which was eventually published in a limited edition in 1928. Although the last years of Mansfield’s life were spent abroad, seeking relief from the symptoms of her tuberculosis, the pair maintained an epistolary friendship. Murry’s own relationship with Kot was never an easy one and in fact the tension between them contributed to the periods of estrangement between Mansfield and Kot. Murry especially never forgave him for recommending the Russian doctor Manoukhin, whose x-ray treatments he felt had precipitated Mansfield towards an early grave. This essay will therefore examine the influence of Russian culture on the life of Katherine Mansfield, focused on her relationship – and those of her contemporaries – with S.S. Koteliansky.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR8309 English literature: Provincial, local, etc. > PR9639.3 New Zealand literature
Creators: Kimber, Gerri
Editors: Ailwood, Sarah and Harvey, Melinda
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities > English and Creative Writing
Faculties > Faculty of Education & Humanities > English and Creative Writing
Date: June 2015
Date Type: Publication
Page Range: pp. 78-90
Title of Book: Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence
Journal or Publication Title: Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence
Place of Publication: Edinburgh
Number of Pages: 272
Language: English
ISBN: 9780748694419
Status: Published / Disseminated
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://nectar.northampton.ac.uk/id/eprint/7606

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