1892 - 1968

Paustovsky. The Way Home

Moscow Literary Museum Centre of K. G. Paustovsky

Wandering is a path that brings us closer to heaven.    K. G. Paustovsky

The exhibition presents photographs of Konstantin Georgievich Paustovsky (1892–1968) and the places associated with his life and travels. All the images are dated no later than the early 1970s. The exhibition allows us not only to get acquainted with the places that Paustovsky traveled to, but also to see those places just as he knew and loved them. This exhibition is a kind of travel photo diary. Each image is supplemented by quotations from the works, letters, and diaries of Paustovsky. The photographs on display have been preserved in the collections of the Moscow Literary Museum Center of K. G. Paustovsky.

Granatny Lane. The house in which K. G. Paustovsky was supposedly born.

“I was born in Moscow on 31 May 1892 on Granatny Alley, in a family of a railroad statistician. My father was descended from the Zaporozhye Cossacks, who had migrated after the destruction of the Sech (Cossack territory) to the shores of the River Ros, near Belaya Tserkov. There my grandfather—a former soldier under Nicholas I—and my Turkish grandmother lived.“Despite his statistical profession, that required a sober view of things, my father was an inveterate dreamer and a Protestant.

Owing to these qualities, he did not stay long in one spot. After Moscow, he served in Vilna, Pskov, and finally settled, more or less permanently, in Kiev. My mother, the daughter of a sugar-factory employee, was a powerful and stern woman.“Our family was large, varied, and inclined to the arts. In our family we sang a lot, played the piano, played cards, argued, and adored the theater. I studied in the First Kiev Classical Gymnasium.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “Some Fragmentary Thoughts”

“That’s Moscow for you... There is a great truth in this city. Here in Moscow, you can feel all of grain-filled Russia, the strong smell of the birch trees, and the limitlessness and orphanhood of us Russians. I feel a filial bond to Moscow as I do to the whole country...” K. G. Paustovsky. Romantics

“The First World War began. As the youngest son in my family, according to the laws of the time, I was not drafted. The war went on, and it was impossible to sit at the boring university lectures. I was languishing in my bleak Moscow apartment, so I rushed out into the midst of the life that I felt to be around me, but about which I knew so little… I took the first opportunity to break out of by meager domestic existence and became a Moscow tram driver.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “A Few Words about Myself”

“Late in the autumn of 1914 a few rear hospital trains were formed… I became an orderly in one of these trains. We took the wounded to Moscow and transported them to towns far from the war. All the orderlies on the train were students and the nurses as well.

We lived together and worked a lot. In 1915 the whole student team was moved from the rear to the battlefield. Now we took the wounded from near the areas of fighting, in Poland and Galicia, back to Gomel and Kiev. In the autumn of 1915, I left the train and joined a field ambulance unit, and traveled with them in the long retreat from Lublin in Poland to the town of Nesvizha in Belorussia.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “A Few Words about Myself”

“Sevastopol! Every time it appeared to me as something completely new and unlike my previous impressions… I went there several times, lived and loved the city, as my second home… I was struck by the fact that even the slightest touch of a human hand to the blessed earth of Sevastopol led to wondrous things: quaint alleys, stone stairs drowning in wisteria, cosy corners of the roads, the rapid game of the sun’s rays in the windows of the houses, balconies, where little green lizards bask, the twilight of the cafés, their signs, like children’s pictures, painted in thick watercolor.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “A Time of Great Expectations”

“I don’t know if you have experienced this complex, rare feeling, when in every drop of seawater, in every piece of nautical rope, you can smell the oceans, and feel the salty sediment of the Atlantic Ocean and the Adriatic Sea. You take a piece of decaying rope, rub it between your fingers, and, touching your lips to the sand that remains on your palm, you think that, just maybe, this is sand from the sacred Malabar coast, from the yellow—like melon rind—coasts of Arabia, or from the black emeralds of the Sandwich Islands.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “Labels for Colonial Goods”

“I read nautical books and manuals and I must tell you that they are wonderful. They are thoroughly imbued with the ancient poetry of the sea, the poetry of the sailing ships from the time when the entire globe was still uncharted.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “Labels for Colonial Goods”

“In the eyes of the sailors I was looking for a reflection of the countries that they had seen. Isn’t that wild? I thought that I could see in them the fog, the golden heat of Asia, the wet piers in the old black ports.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “Labels for Colonial Goods”

“The sea heals wounds and washes away the dirt of this world.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “Labels for Colonial Goods”

“From Chernomorskaya street you had a view of the sea, magnificent in all kinds of weather. On the bottom left you could see the Langeron [a beach in Odessa] and the Quarantine Harbor, where the old pier, worn smooth by the wind, went bending into the sea. On the right the steep red banks, overgrown with saltbush and goosefoot, went away to Arcadia and the Fountains [beach areas], to misty beaches, where the sea often washed up floating mines that had broken from their anchors.” K. G. Paustovsky. Story of a Life. Time of Great Expectations

“This paradise was called Abkhazia. We knew little about it in that time… The vegetation hit you with its dizzying smells, bizarre shapes, and huge size. Behind the house of Mlle Jaloux—the last house in the town on Mt. Cherniavsky—stood tall bushes and fragrant azaleas. Jackals would hide in these thickets. My head used to ache from the smell of these azaleas. Behind the azalea fields there was the dark wall of a lacquered bamboo grove. At the slightest breeze, the bamboo leaves did not rustle, like our northern foliage; they whispered.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “Rush to the South”

“Past Eshera the road was completely broken. We got out of the mail-coach and proceeded on foot.” The day seemed to have been drenched in silence. Even the cicadas were silent, and the heat made no sound. Usually it gives off a quiet squeak, as when water seeps into a narrow gap. The sea was silent too, overheated by the sun. It was being gradually drawn out into steam. The monastery was deserted. In the garden, in small cement basins, where water from the mountain spring had been brought for watering, goldfish were swimming... All around it smelled like heated cypress, as churches are wont to do. In the cathedral the services were still going on, but there were only a few monks left.” K. G. Paustovsky. Story of a Life. Rush to the South

“Ahead, in the bluish glowing mist, the outlines of the yellow mountains slowlygrew out of the sea, made holy with low but bright rays. This was Crimea, but I did not recognize it immediately. It seemed to me like a huge island, drowning in the blue morning sky.

For the first time I saw all of Crimea from the distance at sea, the whole solemn turn of its shore from Cape Fiolent to Karadag. For the first time I realized how beautiful the land was, washed by one of the most festive of the seas in the world. And perhaps the feeling that my companions and I experienced that morning, looking at the shore projecting above the noisy waves, was like sensation people had upon discovering a new country. Our ancestors must have perceived the promised land in this way.” K. G. Paustovsky. Memories of Crimea

“A halt was announced. We stuck our skis in the snow. The sun was reflected in their broad bends like amber fruit. The wind and the wispy clouds were flying low just above the firs. Then the clearing was covered in snow, and the sun turned into a moist spot.” K. G. Paustovsky. Moscow Summer

“In these houses one could “rest one’s soul,” as people said in the old days… The garden outside the windows, and beyond the garden, the railway, the station crossing, the rare clip-clop of freight trains, and the loud puffing of old steam engines… From the window of the doctor’s office you could see such great distances, and such soft rounded hills, that your heart stood still from looking at them. And at the foot of these vistas, ridges, ravines, and hills, the river Bystraya Sosna flowed, in the spring, in a wide band under the railway bridge.”— K. G. Paustovsky, “Book of Wanderings”

“In the late autumn I settled in a village near Ryazan, on the estate of Pozhalostin, famous in his time as an engraver... I took one room in a reverberant, big house with blackened log walls... Behind the courtyard with its shabby sheds, a large, damp, and chilly garden— neglected just like the house—rustled in the wind...

I did not study that old house where I lived as material for a story. I simply fell in love with its gloom and silence, the confused ticking of the clocks, the constant smell of birch smoke from the stove, the old prints on the walls... The glass in the windows was old and curved. It sparkled with an iridescent sheen, and the flame of a candle K. G. Paustovsky. Golden Rose (chapter “Notches on the Heart”)

“On the map of the Meschora region, in the farthest southern corner a bend of a large deep river is shown. This is the Oka. To the north of the Oka stretch wooded and marshy lowlands, and to the south are the long settled lands of Ryazan. The Oka flows along the boundary of two completely different, quite dissimilar spaces. The lands of Ryazan are abundant, appearing both yellow from the rye fields and leafy from the apple orchards.” K. G. Paustovsky. The Meshchora region

“In the region of Meshchora, there is no special beauty or wealth except for the forests, meadows, and clean air. Yet this land possesses a great attractive force. It is very modest, like the paintings of Levitan. But it contains, as do those paintings, all the charm and variety, imperceptible at first glance, of Russian nature...

I shall not name the latitudes and longitudes of the Meshchora region. I will just say that it lies between Vladimir and Ryazan, near Moscow, and is one of the few remaining forested groves, the remainder of that “great belt of coniferous forests.” It once stretched from Polesia to the Urals. It included the forests of Chernigov, Bryansk, Kaluga, Meshchora, Mordovia, and Kerzhenets. In these forests the people of ancient Rus would sit out the invasions of the Tatars. — K. G. Paustovsky. The Meshchora Region

 K. G. Paustovsky 1966

“The first time I came to the Meshchora region, it was from the north, from Vladimir. Past Gus-Khrustalny, at the quiet station of Tuma, I transferred to a narrow- gauge train. It was a train from the time of Stephenson. The locomotive, like a samovar, whistled with a boyish falsetto. The locomotive had an insulting nickname: “Gelding”. It did indeed seem like an old gelding. It groaned and halted at every turn... The forest stood in silence around the suffocating “gelding”. The smell of wild carnations, heated by the sun, filled the cars... The narrow gauge in the Meshchora woods in the most leisurely railway in the Union. The stations are littered with resinous logs and smell of freshly felled timber and wild forest flowers.” K. G. Paustovsky. The Meshchora Region

“I probably never remembered my favorite places with such intensity as I did in the war. I caught myself eagerly awaiting the night, when in some dry ravine on the steppe, lying in the back of a truck, covered with my overcoat, I could imagine myself back in those places and go through them slowly and quietly, breathing the pine air... 

That is how I was lying one day under my overcoat, and I imagined in great detail the road to the Black Lake. It seemed to me that there could be in life no greater happiness than to see those places again and walk through them, forgetting about all my worries and troubles and listening to my heart beat lightly in my chest.” K. G. Paustovsky. Golden Rose (chapter “In the Back of a Truck”)

“We spent several days in the cordon, catching fish in the Shuya and hunting around Lake Orsa, where there were only a few centimeters of clean water, and beneath that, a bottomless viscous ooze... But we spent most of our time on the River Pra. I have seen many beautiful and remote places in Russia, but hardly shall I see a river as pristine and mysterious as the Pra. The dry pine forests on its banks are mixed with ancient oak groves and thickets of willow, alder, and aspen. The tall pines, knocked down by the wind, lay like cast copper bridges on its brown, but crystal-clear water.” K. G. Paustovsky. Cordon 273

“Yalta exists for me only because it was home to Anton Chekhov, a brilliant writer, whose name always has been and will be synonymous for me with high culture, self-improvement, and the wonderful future of our country. The words of Tyutchev apply to Anton Pavlovich, as well as to Pushkin: “The heart of Russia will not forget him. Like a first love.” Anton Pavlovich had the great fortune to have a sister like Maria Pavlovna, the keeper of the house and the beautiful traditions of Chekhov. ” K. Paustovsky

“There are four places in Russia that are full of great lyrical power and endowed with the genuine love of the people: Chekhov’s house in Yalta, Tolstoy’s house in Yasnaya Polyana, Pushkin’s grave in Svyatogorsky Monastery, and Lermontov’s grave in Tarkhany. Our hearts and hopes lie in these places; it is as if all the beauty of life is concentrated within them. ” 28 July 1949 K. Paustovsky

K. Paustovsky in the House-Museum of Anton Chekhov in Yalta.

“In the picturesque quality of its old buildings and streets, Sozopol is not inferior to Nessebar. Not too long ago in Sozopol, there were windmills on the rocks above the sea and surf, with linen wings in the form of slanting Latin sails. It is said that the flapping white wings of the windmills were visible at a distance from the sea and gave Sozopol a special charm.” K. G. Paustovsky. Picturesque Bulgaria

“If you want to be true sons of your country and of the whole earth, people of knowledge and spiritual freedom, people of courage and humanity, labor and struggle, people who can create spiritual values—then be true to the muse of distant wanderings and travel to the extent of your ability and free time. Because every journey is a penetration into the realm of the significant and beautiful.” K. G. Paustovsky. Muse of Distant Wanderings

“In Paris, I realized that my acquaintance with this global city strengthened my love for Russia... Everything increased this love, even the gardens of Versailles. They shone with their geometric splendor and awakened the silent memory of modest provincial gardens, which smell at sunset of damp nettle and mint... With so much greed I was immersed in the life of Paris, and my heart often skipped a beat when I had visions of an imminent meeting with the golden leafy waterfalls on the deserted reaches of the Oka.” K. G. Paustovsky. Fleeting View of Paris

“A great Russian writer died in France, a writer of classical force and simplicity: Ivan Alekseevich Bunin. He died under an alien sky in needless and bitter exile, which he had created for himself, in unbearable longing for Russia and its people. Who knows how much despair this outwardly calm and reserved person suffered within himself from this separation. Let us not judge Bunin. His fatal mistake is not worth recalling. This is not important now. What matters is that he is ours, that we returned him to our people, our Russian literature, and now he will occupy a high place in that literature, which belongs to him by right.” K. G. Paustovsky. Ivan Bunin

“There were books here in all the languages of the world. There were books from all periods... The cool crowns of the plane trees were rustling over the stands of books. The smell of the bindings (the combined smell of glue, coloring, and time) merged with the astringent and cold breath of the mud on the banks of the Seine. From this mud a chain of air bubbles rushed to the surface, just as in any peat lake somewhere in our country in the Ryazan region, in the faraway land of Meshchora.” K. G. Paustovsky. Fleeting View of Paris

“Yes! Old Europe in its entirety, to the last shreds of the continent, to the last bend of the small coves, is filled with memories that compress your heart.” K. G. Paustovsky. Italian Notes

K. G. Paustovsky at a shopwindow. Amsterdam.

“Wanderings acquire importance, saturate us with knowledge, reveal to us the beauty of the land and the originality of many of its countries, and give a push to our imagination, not at once, but gradually. When wandering, you must live, at least for a time, in the places where fate has cast you. And you need to live when you are wandering. Knowledge and wandering are inseparable from each other.” K. G. Paustovsky. Muse of Distant Wanderings

“One of the unknown, but truly great places in nature is just ten kilometers from the log house where I live every summer... These places act on our hearts with an irresistible force... These places fill us with spiritual ease and reverence for the beauty of the land, for the beauty of Russia.” K. G. Paustovsky. Ilyinsky Pool

“Beautiful France, of course, remained excellent, but indifferent to us. A longing for Russia lay on our hearts. From that day I began to hurry home, to the Oka, where everything was so familiar, so dear and innocent... I fell in love with France a long time ago... But for its sake I could not abandon even such a trifle as the morning sun’s saffron rays falling on the log wall of an old hut.” K. G. Paustovsky. Ilyinsky Pool

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Curator — Moscow Literary Museum Center of K. G. Paustovsky

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