ELKOST International Literary Agency

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Ilya Ehrenburg

ELKOST Intl. literary agency handles world rights in the literary estate of Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967)

Stalin Prize for Literature (1942 and 1948, USSR)
International Lenin Peace Prize (1952)

 

Ilya Grigoryevich Ehrenburg, Russian journalist and novelist, whose name is also spelled Erenburg, was born in 1891 in Kiev, Ukraine, into a middle-class Jewish family. When he was five, his parents moved to Moscow. In his early teens Ehrenburg was arrested for revolutionary activities and excluded from the 6th Grade. Among his close friends during his adolescence and youth was Nikolai Bukharin, the Russian revolutionary who was shot in 1938 during Stalin's reign of terror.

In 1908 Ehrenburg immigrated to Paris to avoid trial for revolutionary agitation. He spent much time in Left Bank cafés, met Vladimir Lenin, and started to write poetry under the influence of Paul Verlaine, Francis Jammes, and Konstantin Balmont. His first collection of verse appeared in 1910. In France Ehrenburg become friends with such legendary figures as Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, Jean Cocteau, Marc Chagall, and Amedeo Modigliani.

During the WWI Ehrenburg was a war correspondent at the front. His anti-communist poem, 'Prayer for Russia', appeared in 1917. After returning to his home country, he lived in Kiev, (where he worked as a teacher), Kharkov, Kerch, Feodossiia, and Moscow. He also traveled to Georgia with Osip Mandelshtam. His other friends included Mayakovsky, Marina Tsvetaeva, Serguey Esenin, and Boris Pasternak. For some time he worked as a supervisor of children's theaters for Soviet Ministry of Education, where his direct superior was Vsevolod Meyerhold.

From 1921 to 1924 Ehrenburg lived in Berlin and Belgium, and from 1925 to 1945 in Paris, working as a foreign editor of Soviet newspapers. At intervals he returned to the USSR. With the American director Lewis Milestone Ehrenburg composed in 1933 a screenplay for a film, based on one of his stories, but the film was never realized.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) Ehrenburg was in Spain, where he met Ernest Hemingway. In 1941 he returned to Moscow, and all through the WWII worked as a war correspondent.

During the war, Ehrenburg and fellow writer Vassily Grossman undertook a project that was to be called The Black Book. Under their direction, over twenty writers worked to document the horrors suffered by Soviet Jewry at the hands of the Nazis.

In 1946 he visited Canada and the United States, where he met Albert Einstein, Marc Chagall, Le Corbusier, John Steinbeck, Paul Robeson, and other luminaries. John Steinbeck said to him, "if you spit in the mouth of a lion, it becomes tame." In 1954 in Chile Ehrenburg met Pablo Neruda.

Ehrenburg served as the Vice President of World Peace Council (1950-67). The last years of his life Ehrenburg devoted to his memoirs (People, Years, Life) in which he portrayed a great number of famous politics, scientists, writers and artists he had known in person.

Ilya Ehrenburg died in Moscow on August 31, 1967, of cancer. His gravestone in Moscow is adorned with a reproduction of his portrait drawn by his close friend Pablo Picasso.