Synopses & Reviews
Ignored upon its publication in 1926 in a Russian-emigre periodical, Marina Tsvetaeva's extraordinary narrative poem The Ratcatcher is today deemed by critics and readers to be the zenith of her impressive oeuvre. Written in Prague and Paris in the mid- 1920s and now available in the United States for the first time, The Ratcatcher is at once a paean to literary tradition and a scathing attack on the materialistic, unspiritual lifestyle embraced by post-Bolshevik Russia.
The Ratcatcher retells the legend of the German town of Hamlin, which in the year 1284 was so badly overrun by rats that the Burgomaster promised a large sum of money (and his daughter's hand in marriage) to anyone who could remove them. A colorfully dressed wandering piper lured all the rats away and drowned them in a nearby river. When the reward was refused him, he returned to the town and lured away all the children (and the Burgomaster's adult daughter), disappearing with them into the side of a mountain.
Filled with irony and cloaked in satire, The Ratcatcher brims with the tension between the artist and the philistine, energy and sloth, honesty and hypocrisy, the naked and the overdressed -- a condemnation of the qualities Tsvetaeva felt were embodied by Russia's ex-revolutionaries, who in her opinion had grown as prosperous as the bourgeoisie they ousted. The Ratcatcher has been called "the angriest celebration of music ever written".
Marina Tsvetaeva's masterpiece, is a satirical version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin legend in the form of a complex narrative poem that bears all the marks of Tsvetaeva's poetic style. Written in 1926, it was not available in Russia until 1965, and has hitherto been virtually unknown in English.