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Maksym Rylskyi

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Maksym Rylskyi

(1895, Kyiv – 1964, Kyiv)

Maksym Rylskyi is the first Ukrainian classic author born in Kyiv. When his father, a Polish noble and Ukrainian public activist and ethnologist Tadei Rylskyi, died, 7-year-old Maksym was taken in by the family of Mykola Lysenko, a famous Ukrainian composer. As a result, Rylskyi was a brilliant pianist and started writing poems at the same age.

He was in Volodymyr Naumenko’s private school and then studied medicine and subsequently history and philosophy in Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv. He was never awarded a formal degree, but became known as one of the most educated figures in Ukrainian culture.

Rylskyi’s debut book of poems At White Isles was published when he was only 15 years old. Having read his poems, the famous Ukrainian poet Lesia Ukrainka said that this young poet could have written her Iseult of the White Hands.

His next book, Under the Autumnal Stars (1918), was still markedly Symbolist. Rylskyi dedicated several of his poems to figures that made a special impression on him, including Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Heine, and Nietzsche. The following books, written and printed in the 1920s, show classic taste and precise language. Rylskyi was a Neoclassicist – a member of a group of intellectual poets and critics, affiliated with European culture and using classical forms in their poems.

In 1931, Rylskyi was arrested and imprisoned for five months. During the 1930s he was forced to write odes to Stalin, but even then he was accused of ‘bourgeois nationalism’ after WWII.

He found a release in translation, which became a significant part of his work. Rylskyi made brilliant Ukrainian translations of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin and Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz, as well as of numerous works of Shakespeare, Juliusz Słowacki, Goethe, Heine, and a number of French authors from Molière to Mallarmé. Rylskyi’s greatest success as a translator was the ability to make works of foreign authors sound natural for Ukrainian readers.

Between 1950s and 1960s Rylskyi had a period of ‘the third blossoming’. The book of poems Autumn in Holosiiv (1959) and other collections showed a return to the perfect writing style of the 1920s.


Other locations in Kyiv related to Maksym Rylskyi: from 1951 and until his death in 1964 Maksym Rylskyi lived in the house in the vicinity of the Holosiiv Park, now turned into Rylskyi’s memorial museum. The address is Maksym Rylskyi Street 7.

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