Nikolay Bushev:Rare tale of Russian poet in 30s Shanghai

作者:Nikolay Bushev 发布时间:2018-10-30 15:33:53来源:+收藏本文



Nikolay Bushev, a visiting scholarat Fudan Development Institute, is a researcher and PhD student at the Department of Social Movements and Political Parties within the Faculty of History at the Lomonosov Moscow State University.

THE mercurial poet, composer and artist, Alexander Nikolaevich Vertinsky (1889-1957) lived in Shanghai as an immigrant for around eight years.


Vertinsky arrived in Shanghai from Paris in 1935. The city fascinated him.


“Did I like Shanghai? I barely saw it,” he said. “But what I saw fascinated me. It is a truly exotic city, despite the strongly Europeanized look. You can feel the breath of the world center.”


In the early 20th century there were around 25,000 Russian people in Shanghai.


There were Russian newspapers, schools, shops and restaurants all serving the immigrants.


The Russian Diaspora were delighted to meet the arrival of their hero and looked forward to his performances.

Vertinsky said, “And, in the end, I am sure glad that my compatriots warmly welcome me in Shanghai.”


He held his concerts in the summer garden Arcadia and cabaret Renaissance, and in various restaurants.


In Shanghai, the poet felt the spiritual response he aroused in the Russian youth. He has a wealth of memories of old Russia. At the events he often share interesting stories of his life in Russia.


One of the most important periods of his life was his acquaintance with the famous poet and dancer of the Eastern branch of the Russian migration, Larisa Andersen. Vertinsky was passionately in love with her, and he wrote about it on the post-it notes with the hallmark of the hotel Cathay Mansions.


Arrive. Not afraid.


We’ll be friends,


We both need a break from love.,


Because, alas, no words,


No tears can bring its back.


(Unnecessary letter, 1938)


Many years later, after returning to Moscow from Shanghai, where Alexander and Larisa met, he often read her poems of his love for her.


Vertinsky occasionally went from Shanghai to other cities in China. During his emigration, he lived with Russian immigrants.


He became an integral part of the Russian colony and the hero of numerous legends, gossip and jokes.


Vertinsky, of course, was primarily interested in the conditions of the Russian Diaspora in Shanghai.


Here he created several new songs, such as “Without women,” “Dancing-Girl” and “Jimmy-Pirate.”


Mysterious process


“My work is still a mysterious process for me,” he said.

“It is inexplicable! It comes to me uninvited and imperiously commands my soul.”


Only a few poems and songs were later kept in his concert repertoire, and even then they were rarely performed, except for the “Farewell Dinner.”


In 1939 Vertinsky published a great poem “Shanghai,” permeated his senses and feelings, in the newspaper “Frontier.” In addition, he has organized concerts in the Summer Theater on the Avenue Foch.


The program includes some of the most famous songs among Russian immigrants.


Vertinsky’s random affairs were replaced by a strong feeling for his young wife, which he carried throughout the rest of his life.


From 1942 to his death, he married a young to a Georgian woman, Lydia Sergava.


“He had to work in two places while earning money for his family. After finishing work in one of the cabaret of the French concession, at the third hour of the night he went to the nightclub “Rose Marie” on Hangzhou Road, which opened until the morning,” journalist Natalia Ilyina recalls.


Lydia Vertinskaya, the widow of the artist, recalled that before each of his concerts Vertinsky bought tails from a pawnshop, and after the performances handed it over again until the next time.


The Russian poet-performer wanted to learn Chinese creativity.


“I would like to see Shanghai poets and to know their works, which probably reflected a lot of peculiarities of exotic China,” he said.


However, the idea of a possible return to his homeland never left Vertinsky. Of course, this fact did not slow down the repertoire’s effect.


While in Shanghai, Vertinsky wrote to the Soviet leadership, “I am an artist. I am 50 years old.”


“I still have all my data and I can still give a lot. I used to be accused of decadent moods, but I was always just a mirror and a microphone of my era.”


The work of the Shanghai Vertinsky period has a completely different color compared to the European one.


Firstly, he wrote songs based on poems by Soviet authors and the patriotic lyrics of a military time.


He wanted to return to his homeland in any case, no matter what.


Bird, that is tired


Singing in a foreign land


And came back, suddenly found out


Your Homeland!


(Shanghai, 1943)


Secondly, his homeland was in terrible danger, and it worried not only him, but also all the Russian immigrants in Shanghai.


Thirdly, they were possessed by the thought of a new life in an unknown homeland.



本文转载自上海日报A13版

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