Andrei Tarkovsky's diary published in Russian for the first time

The diary Martyrolog has been published in Russian only in February 2008, almost 20 years after its first appearance in German in 1989. According to its editors the delay was caused by the desire to produce a most complete, properly researched and illustrated edition, which was not possible until the Tarkovsky archive was catalogued and collected in Florence. The edition was published in Italy in the series "Stalker" edited by Andrei A. Tarkovsky and Andrea Ulivi from Edizioni della Meridiana. Future volumes in the series are said to include Tarkovsky's work diaries for Mirror and Stalker. Bibliographical information for this edition is available here.

It took a long time for Andrei Tarkovsky's diary to be published in the original Russian. For almost 20 years it was only available in translations: German, Japanese, Polish, Italian, Czech, French, English... Several reasons were given in the past, such as the desire to produce a "definitive" and "complete" edition which would include all the drawings and photographs. Another reason for the delay was the funding. The fact that the diary refers in unflattering terms to some people who are alive and well in Russia today may have also contributed to certain caution but this is purely our speculation (in other words, don't quote us on that).

The book is indeed beautifully made and the high quality of the reproduced drawings and photographs is immediately noticeable. Perhaps its only technical blemish is the presence of a loose errata sheet.

Visitors to this web site are probably aware of the various differences between editions. In fact, the main reason for our interest in the Russian edition was to see:

  • how accurate (or not) were the foreign editions?
  • are we going to see the mysterious discrepancies between them resolved? Or, if not resolved, at least commented upon in an editorial note describing the physical state of the holograph?
The first question can be answered quickly, at least as far as the diary entries on this web site are concerned: very few changes are needed. The discrepancies mostly stem from other editions relying on typescript copies rather than the manuscript. If any changes are made, we'll set up a page listing them and drop a note on our News page.

The second item on the other hand leads to a certain disappointment. The larger discrepancies between editions are neither resolved nor explained. In fact, the shortest review of the Russian edition of Martyrolog could read as follows: the text is almost exactly the same as that of the French "édition définitive" except:

  • it does mark fragments the editor chose not to include with the "<...>" sign,
  • it omits one very long and interesting diary entry dated 13 February 1986 (only the first two sentences are in the Russian edition).
There is no editorial note describing the criteria used to exclude those fragments, however. Indeed, the "<...>" signs are not mentioned in the book's preface at all, they just are. In several instances we were able to find out what was "behind" them by comparing other editions, and while some of the redacted portions may appear sensible for a publication in Russia today from a practical or legal point of view (e.g. Tarkovsky's comments on someone's drug addiction or homosexuality, etc.), most of the others seem a bit odd. More on that below.

The fact that this edition is so close to the recent French one allows us to begin the more detailed review by first referring to another article on this site in which we examined the French edition. The points raised there remain valid for the Russian edition except for the addition of the "<...>" sign. Thus the absence e.g. of any notes covering The Witch in any detail remains very noticeable when comparing to the Polish edition. (These entries are absent, for example: 11 May 1981, 14 June 1981.) Perhaps the editors concluded that these fragments did not belong to the diary proper. Unfortunately, there is no description of the physical state of the manuscript (were those fragments loose leafs or perhaps separate sheets glued in?) so it's difficult to judge. Compounding this little mystery are two scenes in Michal Leszczylowski's documentary Regi Andrej Tarkovskij in which Larissa Tarkovskaya reads, directly from the diary, two entries: 28 June 1983 and 11 August 1983. Neither of those entries are found in this edition. Let's hope these fragments will be published in the forthcoming volumes of the "Stalker" series inaugurated by Martyrolog.

At this point it's probably best to give several examples of the textual variations. Let's begin with the entry for 28/29 January 1985 with the portion not present in the Russian edition highlighted in yellow. An instance of text variation is also present in this fragment which we highlight in green (Polish edition) and the corresponding Russian substitution in blue. These variations are most likely due to small mistakes made during preparation of typescript copies in the '90s which were the basis of the Polish edition.

28/29 January, night, Berlin
        In Moscow it turned out the recommendation for Andryusha was unnecessary because he ought to apply for permanent stay and Anna Semyonovna only for half a year. Olga does not qualify. We want to arrange a fictitious marriage for her. It would be better for her to finish university in Moscow. At any rate, we decided not to include her on the application for permit to leave. Ola and Andryusha are in Suzdal now, visiting Maximilian Schell. I'm so happy they can be with him. They are delighted. I'm very indebted to him for his kindness. After all, my "friends" are so scared they not only avoid telephone calls to our home, they even pretend not to notice our children's greetings. They cross the street if they meet them by chance.
        Max even found out how to make phone calls from Suzdal to Berlin and we could talk to Ola and Andryusha.

        I asked Andryusha to talk to Maximilian and tell him all about our problems with the passport office. I'm They are going there tomorrow to file the application. If this works out then Dakus will be brought here by Maximilian, he suggested it himself.
An entry for 28 September 1985 (marked with "<...>" in the Russian):
28 September, Switzerland, on the way from Sweden to Florence
        Larissa is in Florence already and is furnishing the flat. She bought lots of antiques in Berlin: plates, kitchen furniture, carpets, gorgeous old chandeliers and lamps, mirrors, candle holders. One could not even list it all. Also the audio equipment, the VCR, and a stereo TV — for me and my work. It's all necessary for a nice and homely place. And it was all relatively cheap considering she was buying only antiques, except for kitchen furniture naturally. Natan was very helpful. It was he who named prices to the shopkeepers and they agreed! Simply unbelievable! Larissa speaks of them all as her friends. As a result two houses were furnished at the same time if one includes our (future) country home. Lara thinks the money spent on antiques is not wasted as the antiques will appreciate in time. I think so too. All this required two large trucks which Natan also helped to hire (much below the official rate, through his connections). I'm forever indebted to him for everything. Thanks to him and Christiana Lara was not so lonely in Berlin.
        But after arrival in Florence all sorts of problems arose. All this furniture had to be carried up to the sixth floor (no lift, spiral staircase), carefully so nothing would break. She took a knock (as always), poor thing. Scary to think how much. Franco Terilli who was in Florence at the time did not help her at all. I was really surprised and saddened by this. Perhaps he was afraid of difficulties and responsibility? Larissa managed by herself. She was helped by the young people from Movimento Popolare. Nevertheless, she had to do most of the work. Her talent, energy, stamina, and patience never cease to amaze me. What would I do without her. I hope now, after five years of life of misery we are going to have OUR OWN home.
        Lara is convinced (so am I) that since we have a home, Andryusha and Anna Semyonovna will come. Not too much money is left in the bank. Considering the future contracts I think this can be fixed. Signing new contracts is most important.

        I'm on my way to edit Sacrificio. On the 2nd or 3rd I have to fly to Paris to see Lang and I think Mitterand, and to be at the press conference for Andryusha.
        I believe the film is a success although I think I no longer possess the ability to understand, to evaluate my work. I don't like the work of others. It seems I completely lost my admiration for Bergman and Nykvist with his photography. But the photography he did for the film was very good.
        I must quickly exchange the remaining dollars in a Roman bank. The dollar is falling like a rock.
        I briefly met with a lawyer in Zurich. A gloomy conversation about the taxes. Without fail I shall have to find in Florence a lawyer who could take care of my taxes. It's so hard. I have no energy left. I'm tired. I cannot go on like this without Andryusha any more. I have no will to live. One just doesn't want to keep going.
And another example, 10 November 1985:
10 November, Stockholm
        I had a wonderful horrible month in Florence editing the film. Lara and I stayed with Benedetto Benedetti. He is a very pleasant, very good man, completely immersed in opera. His hospitality made me feel at home. He would frequently cook and prepare magnificent, elaborate suppers for us. I edited every day from 9am to 7pm. Larissa was busy furnishing the home. She was tired but very excited. And I couldn't even help her with anything because of the lack of time. The furniture she bought is simply magnificent.
        Florence has made the nicest impression on me. A fairy-tale, magical city, bringing hope and faith in better future.
There are problems with the flat here. The block where the flat is hasn't been quite finished yet. There is no lift, gas, etc... Gaetano came here from Roccalbegna and helped us put it in order. Inside — cardboard walls and ceilings. Larissa wants to secure the room on the higher floor for my study. Unending bureaucratic and administrative problems. If I had a choice I would thank for the hospitality, snap my fingers at them and leave.
        I have edited the film. Henri Colpi arrived, saw it and said the film could not be shortened. There will be a row anyway. The French producer (Dauman) and the Swedish distributor will insist on 2 hr. 10 min., as in the contract, but I cannot make the film shorter than 2 hr. 30 min. I talked to Klas Olofsson, the Film Institute director, who said the film could not be shorter and asked to convene an art council regarding the matter. He also asked to set up a show for Bergman. I'm waiting for soundtrack tests.
        Benedetto Benedetti — the opera critic I mentioned In Florence I've made the acquaintance of a friend of Franco Terilli's — Benedetto Benedetti — an opera critic who is truly out of his mind. He wants to buy Godunov from the Covent Garden — the costumes, the sets, and the services of Stephen [Lawless], the assistant, and move the opera to Italy. [...]
There are more examples of similar differences in cases where Tarkovsky makes positive comments about his wife. It's a bit mysterious to us why they are omitted. The following examples are typical:
15 May [1986]
        I'm feeling better.
        They keep calling us from Cannes all the time. We had a supper tonight with Léon and Marina.
        Anna-Lena telephoned again and talked to him (Léon) about my trip to Cannes in case of a prize. He was unyielding.
        Yesterday after supper I felt very tired. Lara is also tired, has difficulty falling asleep, thousands of problems and complications. She is upset, mostly on my account. We have to get our lives in order somehow, send Andryusha to school, get Olga out. Anna Semyonovna is strong but she also feels unwell. Of course the biggest problem is that I'm in a very bad shape.

16 May, Friday
        One must admit Larissa can create a cosy, warm home atmosphere. She's been doing it for over twenty years now with hardly enough means. I have no idea where she gets her energy and stamina. I cannot imagine her being any different. I feel sorry for her. Of course she got so exhausted, poor thing, and what's really terrible — it's not only the physical exhaustion but an emotional as well with all the helath consequences. My dear poor one! I could not manage without her, especially now when I'm so ill. Without her everything would have been over already.
        They couldn't get the blood transfusion right today: they pricked both hands in vain: it could be done just once — it was a defective drip. Bravo, nurse! It was Larissa who noticed this.
        The film is getting very good reviews.

19 May
        Yesterday Larissa was in a state of hysteria. Again. Mum, Tosya, the problems. Anna Semyonovna doesn't even look at me. Larissa did everything she could to turn her against me.
One omitted portion written in Paris contains this important remark:
Together with the arrival of Andryushka and Anna Semyonovna the feeling one usually calls "nostalgia" has left me completely. It was probably caused by my longing for those dearest to me.
This comes from the entry dated 13 April 1986. In the Russian edition this entry contains only the opening remarks: "I moved from the hospital to Dauman's apartment. We can stay here until we receive the flat from Chirac. But even here it's cosy. That's thanks to Larissa."

Needless to say, there are numerous examples in reverse: portions present in the Russian (and French) edition which are absent in other editions. Here we point again to our previous comparison for more details, including a list of differences keyed by dates.

To sum it up, our impression is that anyone interested in a proper critical edition of the diaries must wait a little longer. The editors limited their role mostly to careful rereading of the manuscript and making decisions regarding the omitted portions. The lack of index makes it harder to follow the text sometimes.

We still highly recommend this edition. Not only does it present Tarkovsky's thoughts in his own voice so to speak but it also includes all the drawings from the diaries. It should be noted that the careful presentation of the original text allowed this reviewer to quickly find a couple of intriguing items not apparent in the translated versions:

  • The mysterious phrase (in Polish and French editions) from 5 April 1986:
    set the night on the pause, introduce the sound of a passing motorcycle,
    ...reads in the Russian as follows:
    put on the pause (Night) the sound of a passing motorcycle,
    We wonder if Tarkovsky refers here to Antonioni's Notte? Watching both films again could be interesting.
  • 20 April 1980 contains a reference to Two Saw the Fox which was one of the titles originally considered for what eventually became The Sacrifice. In the Russian this reference is phrased as: Two (Both) Saw the Fox.
All in all, despite certain scholarly shortcomings, an impressive way to open the new "Stalker" series which we hope will soon continue with Tarkovsky's work diaries from his film and stage productions.  end block

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