Irina Odoevtseva

Irina Vladimirovna Odoevtseva (Ирина Влади′мировна Одо′евцева, pen name of Ираида Густавовна Гейнике – Iraida Gustavovna Geinike. Latvian: Iraida Heinike. 15 June 1895 – 14 October 1990) was a Russian writer.

Odoevtseva was born in Riga, then part of the Russian Empire, to an upper-class family of German and Latvian descent, on June 15th, 1895 (some sources indicate February 23rd 1895, others 1901).

She moved to St Petersburg (then Petrograd) in 1918, where she joined the Guild of Poets and attended classes at the Institute of the Living Word, founded by scholar Vsevolod Vsevolodsky-Gerngross. At the Institute, she was tutored by poet and literary critic Nikolay Stepanovich Gumilyov.

In 1921, she married the poet Georgy Ivanov. That same year, she began to publish her poems in various periodicals, under the pen name Irina Odoevtseva. Her first poetry collection, Двор чудес: Стихи (‘The Yard of Wonders’) was published in 1922, and was a success.

In December 1922, she left Petrograd for Latvia to stay with her father; then, briefly went to Berlin to meet her husband; and, finally, the couple emigrated to Paris, where Odoevtseva was an active of the émigré literary circles, and took part in Zinaida Gippius’ Green Lamp society.

In exile, Odoevtseva turned to prose and published her first novel, Ангел смерти (‘Angel of Death’, translated as Out of Childhood), in 1927. She would go on to publish five novels, three of which have been translated into English.

At the beginning of World War II, Odoevtseva and her husband left Paris for Biarritz, where she had inherited a villa from her father, who died in 1933. In 1946, the couple returned to Paris, only to find out that their apartment had been ransacked. Due to their alleged collaboration with the Nazis during the war, they were ostracised by the community of Russian emigrants in Paris. The couple suffered financial difficulties and had to rely on welfare programs. Odoevtseva’s husband started to struggle with alcoholism, and died in 1958.

After the death of her husband, Odoevtseva started to collaborate with the periodical Russkaia mysl’. In 1978, she married the writer Yakov Gorbov, and they remained together until his death, in 1981. In 1987, she returned to St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), where she enjoyed considerable commercial success with the publication of her memoirs.

Odoevtseva died in 1990.

Books in English


  • Out of Childhood(1930, tr. Donia Nachshen. Original: Ангел смерти, 1927)
  • All Hope Abandon (1949, translator unknown. Оставь надежду навсегда, first published in French in 1948 and in Russian in 1954)
  • Isolde (2019, tr. Bryan Karetnyk and Irina Steinberg. Original: Изольда, 1929)


About her

  • Irina Odoevtseva, poet, novelist, memoirist: a literary portrait, by Ėlla Bobrova (1996)
  • The Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature, ed. Claire Buck (1992)
  • Handbook of Russian Literature, ed. Victor Terras (1985)

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