Against Bare Bottoms
- BuyDiaries 1924-33: Prodigal Son by Sergey Prokofiev, translated by Anthony Phillips
Faber, 1125 pp, £30.00, November 2012, ISBN 978 0 571 23405 9
In April 1955, two years after Prokofiev’s death from a stroke, his widow and his two sons arranged for two chests of documents to be shipped to Moscow from New York. Prokofiev had left them in a safe during his final overseas tour in 1938, presumably because he worried that his personal papers might fall into the hands of Soviet agents. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, charged with acquiring (or confiscating) the foreign archives of Soviet citizens, forced Prokofiev’s family to have the documents returned to the Soviet Union. The chests arrived in Moscow in July 1956. Their contents were sealed in the vaults of the Central State Archive of Literature and Art, but weren’t catalogued: only the composer’s heirs were to have access to them. Later that year, Prokofiev’s first wife was released from a Soviet prison camp, where she had spent eight years falsely charged with treason. Mira, his second wife, died in 1968, his younger son, Oleg, defected to the West in 1972 and his older son, Svyatoslav, accepted French citizenship in 2000, a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Still the archive remained sealed, nikomu ne vydavat’ – not to be seen by anyone without the written approval of the Prokofiev estate.