I read Ariadna Efron's memoir in Chinese and soon discovered that there is no English equivalent of this book. The edition, which bears the closest resemblance is No Love Without Poetry: The Memoirs of Marina Tsvetaeva's Daughter, contains the memoir, several short stories by the author, and Tsvetaeva's notebooks. The Chinese version of the book has Alya (Ariadna)'s notebooks and a collection of letters between Alya, Tsvetaeva, and Boris Pasternak. About Marina Tsvetaeva: Memories of A Daughter is really an unofficial translation. The original work was in Alya’s native tongue: Russian. This copy is titled О Марине Цветаевой: Воспоминания дочери.

Just like Pushkin, Marina Tsvetaeva was a great poet. Her poems embodied flowing music, and her words were piercingly precise. She never gave into hardship and oppression. Similarly, in the book, there were many who strived to hold on to their integrity in difficult circumstances—this strength was at the core of Efron’s memoir.

Alya was Marina’s genius daughter. Her memoir began in the early twentieth century when Marina's husband, Sergei, was exiled during the Soviet revolution. Poverty, winter, and hunger clouded the lives of Marina and her daughters: six-year-old Alya and Irina, who died of malnutrition at barely three years old. Throughout this hardship, Marina, self-disciplined and devoted to poetry, always sat before her desk, her head bowed in contemplation of a new poem. Alya would be the first to hear them. She knew all the poems her mother wrote because she was always by her side. Young Alya wrote poems and diaries too, and they were beautiful. Together, the mother and daughter would attend poetry readings of Blok, Yesenin, Balmont, and Tsvetaeva herself. Poetry was “[Our] celebration of life” (Tsvetaeva, 1920). Alya only ever attended one semester of school, yet she had profound knowledge of literature, art, and history. She was always glad, humorous, and insightful. Perhaps it was because of the absence of school and education that her imagination and sympathy were preserved.

How was life for this family? Poor, but happy. Marina left her beloved homeland of Russia to reunite with the exiled Seryozha (Sergei). In Czechoslovakia, they lived in shacks with rats and dripping roofs. Marina and Seryozha later had a son, Mur. In the evening, the family would read together and discuss the several precious books they had acquired despite great difficulty— such as Gogol, Turgenev, or Gorky's My Childhood. Sometimes Marina would act as a lynx and Seryozha as a lion when they would tell the children fantasy stories of animals. Marina never forgot her children over poetry and gave all her heart to Alya. Even though the family was poor, they would not hesitate to share food with others. They never gave up their love for literature and their care for those around them. Their minds were broad and full of love, and their will was strong and optimistic—this attitude towards hardship is a precious gift that this book bestows upon us.

I later learned that Alya omitted several incidents from her memoir because of political censorship, and perhaps, for her pursuit of beauty. Among such poems was one detailing a long-lasting conflict between Marina and her family. Perhaps Alya left these memories out because she understood what pressure was laid onto sensitive Marina. Alya saw what was more essential: the deep spiritual bond between herself and her mother. Next to the looming suffering of humanity at such turbulent times, of what importance are personal skirmishes? This transcendence from trivialness and petty pain was what Alya inherited from her mother, and this mindset supported her through many cold winters later in her life.

It was politics that destroyed the family. The four loved Russia deeply, but after returning home to Moscow, Alya and Seryozha were arrested as spies. Alya was thrown into a labor camp and later exiled to Siberia. Sergei was executed. Marina committed suicide at the beginning of World War II. Mur died on the front lines. By the time Alya was redressed and returned to her hometown, her youth and vigor were gone.

She had too much to write. As a witness of her mother’s life and creations, she hoped to complete a true memoir. “There are many things that I can recall, not ‘dry conclusions,’ but concrete and detailed memories: how she wrote, why she wrote certain pieces…” (Maria Belkina, 1988, foreword in Efron, 2015) Although her eyes were weary and her breathing was heavy, Alya was determined to write on. Yet, “Between [her] and a desk [was] an insurmountable chasm…” (Efron 2015, 36) Alya had to keep publishing translations in order to earn enough income to support herself. She had to sort through her mother’s manuscripts, and communicate with people throughout the country to publish them. Where her heart and talent lies is in original writing, in her memoir of her mother! Ariadna Efron passed away in this state in the summer of 1975.