The 'wicked songs' of guilleaume du vintrais: A sixteenth-century French poet in the Gulag

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One day in 1947, two inmates named lurii Veinert and Iakov Kharon were released from the incongruously-named camp Svobodnoe (Free), the headquarters of the sprawling network of labour camps that were harnessed to the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline railway (BAM) in the Soviet Far East. Between them, these two inmates had spent a quarter of a century in the Gulag (Veinert on and off since his first arrest in 1930 and Kharon since 1937), so it is little surprising that each left Svobodnoe bearing lasting scars of labour camp life. Among these, for Kharon, there was the tuberculosis that would later kill him, while for Veinert, seemingly, there was psychological trauma that contributed to his apparent suicide in 1951.' In addition, the two men also took with them several manuscript copies of a small book of sonnets, the cover of which was inscribed in both French and Russian with the author's name, Guilleaume [szc] du Vintrais, and the publication information 'Chalons-sur-Marne 1597' and 'Komsomol'sk na Amure 1946'; the book's title page included the inscriptions 'translation from the French [by] lu. Veinert' and 'introductory article, general editing [and] commentary [by] la. Kharon'. The introductory article identifies the sonnets' author as 'one of the many largely forgotten French warriorpoets [and] humanist-poets of the second half of the 16th century', while an accompanying portrait depicts du Vintrais in an elaborate periwig and lace-frilled shirt, book in hand and quill at the ready.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-449
Number of pages21
JournalSlavonic and East European Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


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