Klen, Yurii

Image - Oswald Burghardt (1910s) Image - The Neoclassicists: (1920s photo): standing (l-r), V. Petrov and M. Zerov; sitting, O. Burghardt (Yu. Klen), P. Fylypovych, B. Yakubsky, M. Rylsky. Image - Oswald Burghardt (Yurii Klen) (1930s)

Klen, Yurii (pseud of Oswald Burghardt), b 4 October 1891 in Serbynivtsi, Podilia gubernia, d 30 October 1947 in Augsburg, Germany. (Photo: Yurii Klen.) Writer, poet, literary scholar, and translator. After graduating from Kyiv University, he published in Russian a study on the latest analyses of poetic style (1915). Because he was the son of German colonists, he was exiled during the First World War to a village in the Arkhangelsk region of northern Russia. Returning to Ukraine after the Revolution of 1917, he worked as a teacher in Baryshivka. There he renewed his friendship with the scholar and poet Mykola Zerov and began writing poetry in Ukrainian. Klen became one of the unofficial five-member group called the Neoclassicists. Although his poems began to appear in the periodical press beginning in 1924, his major contributions were his translations of German, French, and English poetry; a separate collection of translated German poetry, Zalizni sonety (Iron Sonnets), appeared in 1926. In 1931 Klen managed to emigrate to Germany and taught Slavic literatures at the universities of Münster, Innsbruck, and Prague. His literary output in both German and Ukrainian (as Yu. Klen) increased in the 1930s. In Ukrainian journals in Prague and Lviv, he revealed himself as an erudite, technically masterful writer of short stories, epic poems, and lyric poetry marked by precision of language, plastic imagery, and thematic heterogeneity. Although neoclassicist in their mastery of form, his poems are permeated with a neoromantic drive reflecting the turbulent epoch of the Second World War. His long poem Prokliati roky (The Accursed Years, 1937; 2nd edn, 1943) was followed by his sole collection of lyrics, Karavely (Caravels, 1943). Before his untimely death he managed to complete four parts of his monumental epic poem, Popil imperii (The Ashes of Empires, 1946), as well as the invaluable first-hand account Spohady pro neokliasykiv (Memoirs about the Neoclassicists, 1947).

Klen's literary parodies, written together with Leonid Mosendz under the joint pseudonym of Porfyrii Horotak, were published in 1947 as Dyiabolichni paraboly (Diabolic Parabolas). His Ukrainian translations of William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Tempest appeared together with most of his other Ukrainian works in the posthumously published Tvory (Works, vols 2–4, 1957–60; vol 1, which includes his lyric poetry, appeared in 1992). A volume of his selected works, edited by Yurii Kovaliv, was published in Kyiv in 1991 and a German-language study of his life and works by his sister, J. Burghardt, Oswald Burghardt: Leben und Werke, appeared in 1962.

Danylo Husar Struk

[This article was updated in 2007.]




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