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Ghosting: A Double Life

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Jennie Erdal

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Ghosting: A Double Life by Jennie Erdal - photingberkna.tk

I give a nod to the chauffeur, decidedly de haut en bas , and sink into the plush leather like Lady Muck. We are on our way to Oxford, the dazzling publisher and I, to visit a woman as old as the century. It has the feel of an adventure, the beginning of something. Anything counting as a significant happening usually involves the chance occurrence of a number of events. Each event means nothing in isolation, or so it seems at the time, but taken together and viewed from the ringside seat that is given to us by hindsight, each turns out to have played a part in what Raymond Chandler liked to call the Start of Something Big.

The particular events that led to my journey from London to Oxford in the back of a Rolls-Royce that Saturday morning in were something of a rag-bag. My undergraduate thesis was a study of the poet and novelist Boris Pasternak. When the University of St. Andrews opened a new art gallery with an exhibition of the works of Leonid Pasternak, father of Boris, I was asked to write a profile of the artist for the exhibition catalogue.

The research for this involved reading Pasternak's memoirs in Russian and consulting with the artist's two daughters, Josephine and Lydia. After the exhibition they encouraged me to translate their father's memoirs but, since I had two small children and a third on the way, it seemed an impossible undertaking. When the third child was born it was even more impossible, but by then I knew that if I was going to be a fit mother I needed also to do something that was not mothering.

Translation seemed to offer a solution. In any case the memoirs were interesting and colourful, painting a vivid picture of Russian artistic life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The family lived in simple rooms in the corner of a large sprawling coaching-inn on the outskirts of Odessa by the Black Sea. There were stables and a dung yard where children played amongst the poultry and pigs, and the lodgings were filled with Tartar tradesmen, coachmen and assorted merchants.

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They would arrive in huge tarantasses straight out of Gogol. The air was heavy with noise and liquor.

Suddenly, above the din, a mother started screaming that her baby was dying. Everyone crowded round to watch helplessly as the infant convulsed and turned blue. Only one man, a Jewish tailor and sage of the local shtetl, knew what to do. He raised a huge earthenware jug above the baby's head and smashed it on the dirt floor.

The baby, startled out of his fit, turned pink. But perhaps the main fascination of the memoirs lies in his friendship with Tolstoy who invited him to illustrate Resurrection as he was writing it.

Jennie Erdal, Ghosting: A Double Life

Pasternak visited Tolstoy's home at Yasnaya Polyana many times and completed a number of portraits and studies, the last on 20 November , when a telegram summoned him to draw the great man on his deathbed. Within a week or two the book was commissioned and, to the delight of the artist's family, it was to include about a hundred reproductions from his work and an introduction by his daughter Josephine.

She lived in Oxford, having moved there with her parents in At that time her father was a successful artist exhibiting in Germany, but the rise of Nazism meant that all Soviet citizens were being expelled. The family decided to move to Oxford, where Lydia, the other daughter, was already settled. Leonid and his wife Rosa hoped to return to Russia one day, but it was not to be. They both died in Oxford, Rosa a week before the start of the war, and Leonid in , a few months before it ended.

Josephine wrote in her introduction that when her mother died it was as if harmony had abandoned the world, and when her father died it seemed that truth had left it. I made several visits to Josephine during the course of the translation, checking out details of her father's life and helping to choose which pictures would go into the book. She was overjoyed that her father's memoirs were at last to be published.


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Both daughters felt their father had been unfairly overshadowed by their brother Boris, and they were determined to do everything they could to even things out. Boris, they were keen to point out, was first known in Russia as "the son of the great artist," and it was only in the west and after the publication of Dr. Zhivago that people started to refer to Leonid as "the father of Boris. They were both impassioned on this subject.

The house in Oxford's Park Town where Leonid had spent his last years was chaotic and ramshackle, but wonderfully so. It was a vast inheritance and evidently a formidable task for Josephine and Lydia to sort through. As they got older, the problem of how best to proceed became more urgent. Their dream was one day to establish a Pasternak museum as a permanent memorial to their father and to prevent his work being dissipated and lost.

In their attempts over the years to get the pictures more widely known there had been some bruising experiences. For example, they had given a treasured charcoal sketch of Boris to the Tate Gallery only to find that it was hung for a while next to the ladies' toilets before disappearing permanently into the stacks. They also gave a major work, a life-size portrait of the artist's four children, to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, but it was never even hung.

On another occasion, in the mid-seventies, they lost some of the best work to a London dealer. And so, by the time I met them a few years later, they were absolutely resolute on one matter: no more pictures would be sold. Fate had ordained Leonid Pasternak to travel to the Holy Land in He had been commissioned by a Parisian art journal to produce a series of paintings of the people and the landscape.

For fifteen years, Jennie Erdal led a double existence; officially she worked as a personal editor for one particular man - Tiger - but in reality she was his ghost-writer and in some mysterious sense his alter ego. Convert currency. Add to Basket. Book Description Canongate Books Ltd, Condition: New.

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Established seller since Seller Inventory F Language: English. Brand new Book. Seller Inventory AA First Edition. Available Now. Book Description: Ghosting is a remarkable account of one woman's life - or, to be more accurate, lives.


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Ghosting is her first book published under her own name.