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img991Some authors, no matter how many of their books you would read or how many biographies about them you read will still appear to be an enigma and remain ever so.

Perhaps, we should not always attempt to understand and judge a man’s actions, but separate the complete human with body and soul from his self imposed task as a writer who looks back and forth and if he writes non fiction must speak the truth about what he sees as the carnal points in life. If he can dream with his eyes open, then he can become a novelist. To attempt to put a fleeting moment or thought into poetry even only once, means being true to oneself, an egotist or an egoist, but always looking to catch in a few words what others take a lifetime to see.

Below a 1959 portrait of Ehrenburg by the painter Martiros Saryan (wikipaintings.org)

Clipboard02Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967) was exactly that man. One of Russia’s most embattled Twentieth Century writers, he was torn between love of country, love of life, love of words, not an easy task in Soviet Russia where the first duty of a writer was to be a good communist.

Clipboard01Shown above is a photo with Hemingway in Spain in the thirties. Ehrenburg left and Hemingway in the middle.

Much other biographical material about Ilya Ehrenburg is available on the web but when I found this book by author Joshua Rubenstein with the drawing on the front cover done by Pablo Picasso, and after reading the review by the well known (to me) from his books, Russian expert Adam Ulam, on the back cover, I decided to read Ehrenburg’s life story.

img992The book did not disappoint me, quite the contrary, I have not read a biography so well written in a very long time!

img993img994A variety of opinions about Ehrenburg are available on the web, some from ultra extreme right wing authors and no, I am not going to name them. They have been active in Neo-Nazi circles for years. Much to my surprise, I found the drawing on the front cover of the book replicated on Ehrenburg’s tombstone in Russia, or maybe it is the other way around as the stone could have been placed years later. The photo below is from wikipedia-Mrken71