A protagonist in the Pasternak case: Inge Schönthal: Between Legend and Reality (Interview with Sergio d'Angelo)

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A protagonist in the Pasternak case: Inge Schönthal: Between Legend and Reality (Interview with Sergio d
Published 13-04-2014, 06:04
Editor's Note

Today we revert, at our readers' request, to the Pasternak case in order to discuss an important aspect of those events that has so far remained obscure.

We will recall, especially for the benefit of the younger members of our readership, that Boris Pasternak (1890 - 1960), a Russian poet, writer, and unquestionably a genius, was subjected in the last years of his life to harsh persecution by the Soviet regime. The ostensible reason for that was publication in the West of Doctor Zhivago, a superb novel that was banned in his native country but deferentially acclaimed throughout the world, bringing its author the highest reward, the Nobel Prize for Literature. Doctor Zhivago was first published in Milan, Italy, in November 1957. It was put out by a publishing house founded by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli just a couple of years previously.

Although Feltrinelli Jr. had inherited one of Italy's major financial-industrial corporations, he was a member of the Communist Party of Italy and most generously supported it financially. However, in the spring of 1957 he left the Communist Party in protest against pressure from the party's leadership that interfered with his plans to publish the novel rejected by Moscow. He declared that, as a left-leaning publisher, he intended to stand up for complete freedom of speech and thought. In actual fact, however, he largely withdrew from the publishing business in the years that followed, devoting himself entirely to the revolutionary cause. At first he provided generous financial support for rebel movements in Third World countries, but later engaged in subversive activities in Italy and neighboring countries. He died in an attempted act of terror in a Milan suburb in March 1972.

The aspect of the Pasternak case referred to above concerns the role played in Giangiacomo Feltrinelli's life over nearly fifteen years (1958 - 1972) by a woman whose name was Inge Schönthal. In 1962 Inge gave birth to Giangiacomo's son Carlo, the only heir to his father's multibillion fortune, which Inge has been running for several decades already.

For an in-depth view of the issue, Kontinent USA interviewed Sergio d'Angelo, the Italian journalist who, back in the spring of 1956, received the MS of Doctor Zhivago from Boris Pasternak with the understanding that he would hand it over to Feltrinelli, and played an important role in the subsequent turbulent events both in and outside Russia. These events were described in detail in his book published in Italy in 2006. A year later, in September 2007, a few days after the Russian edition of that book appeared (Delo Pasternaka: Vospominaniya ochevidtsa 'The Pasternak Case: Recollections of an Eyewitness', Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye Publishers, Moscow, 2007), d'Angelo won the Liberty Prize (the Window on Europe section). The Prize was instituted in 1999; its panel of judges includes celebrated figures of the Russian-American community; awarded annually to individuals who made a significant contribution to culture, the prize is sponsored by the Russia House in Washington, American University in Moscow, and Kontinent USA .

A protagonist in the Pasternak case

Inge Schönthal: Between Legend and Reality

Interview with Sergio d'Angelo

Edward Lozansky: For a start, let me say that I did not get a chance until a few days ago to watch the DVD where IngeSchönthal tells her story to the Italian viewer. It is basically a lengthy oration of self-praise with a few diplomatic modesty notesthrown in for good measure, say, her confession that she never mastered Italian. Anyway, the documentary again awakened inme, as in the other colleagues who also admire Pasternak's talent and the ' novel about a novel, ' the desire to learn moreabout the role Inge, an extraordinary person that she is, played in the life of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Could you start with somefacts about what Inge was and what she did before she met the Milan publisher?

D'Angelo: The numerous newspapers, magazines and books that touched upon the subject chiefly drew information from her own statements. Briefly it boils down to the following. Inge was born in Hessen, Ruhr, Germany in 1930. She was still a tiny tot when her father fled to America to escape Nazi persecution. She spent her childhood full of dangers and privations with her younger brothers and mother in Gö ttingen, Lower Saxony. In the war years she went to a grammar school, intending to continue her education, but the family had no money for that.

E.L.: And at the end of the war?

D'A.: Inge spent a few more years in Göttingen, best forgotten, she says, with her family. Then she decided to leave and hitch-hiked her way to Hamburg in a lorry. She was almost twenty, a lovely eye-catching girl. Very enterprising. She bicycled all over Hamburg, a major seaport, within just a few dozen kilometers of the East German border. She kept looking for a job, tried to make useful acquaintances, until finally the Constanze magazine took her on as a trainee photographer. She was soon entrusted with making picture stories about major personalities of West Germany. Starting from the second half of the 1950s, the range of her trips extended to include celebrities in other countries as well. The farthest she went was an exotic and fascinating business trip to pre-Castro Cuba in 1957, when she stayed for a fortnight at Ernest Hemingway's villa Finca Vigia not far from Havana.

E.L.: In short, she made a brilliant career, even though her name is not among those of legendary photographers. Now, how didshe meet Feltrinelli?

D'A.: In early June 1958 Feltrinelli, shortly after he and his second wife split up, decided to go to Switzerland to get himself a new yacht. So he informed Hamburg publisher Heinrich Rowohlt, his friend and business partner, that on 14 July he would like to visit him, making a detour to Hamburg specifically to this end. Rowohlt said OK, and on arrival of his guest threw a party in his honor. Inge was among the visitors. Dressed to kill. In her own words, she was there because she was making photos for Rowohlt. During supper she sat at the publishers' table and did her damnedest to captivate Feltrinelli. Which she duly achieved. The Hamburg publisher said years later in an interview to Italian review (Panorama (September 29, 1985) that Inge and Feltrinelli had 'instantly taken to each other, and as they were leaving the party they hardly needed anyone else.'

E.L.: I assume they left for Milan soon afterwards and eventually tied the knot without mishap. Did they?

D'A.: Let's take it one thing at a time. True, they did go to Milan, but they could not marry, as he was still legally married, even though he had left his wife, and permission to divorce had not yet been given in Italy. It was rumored that he tried to overcome the obstacle by turning to Sacra Rota, the ecclesiastical tribunal entitled to pronounce unconsummated marriages null and void, alleging that he suffered from impotentia erigendi et coeundi [erectal and ejaculator dysfunction], the way he had done to end his first matrimony. But that's largely immaterial, as for a reason I will talk about later, Feltrinelli prematurely parted from Inge and entered upon a relationship with the very young Sibilla Melega, who will become some years later his last wife.

E.L.: Still, I would imagine that at first Inge was very upset because she could not consolidate by marriage her relationship withFeltrinelli .

D'A.: I think she was. Well, however it may be, once she had settled down in the Feltrinelli family abode, Inge took to her new life of a multi-millionairess like a duck to water. But it was not a life of idleness. She asked for, and got, the post of supervisor of relations with foreign publishers and authors. It was in that capacity that she accompanied Feltrinelli on his trip through North America in 1959 that lasted some four months. Truth to tell, they had first got married, in Mexico (better that nothing for her) and celebrated with a honeymoon in southern California and Cuba. Then they stayed for a long time in the United States discussing projects and copyright exchange with various publishers. But I am certain they also met with ultra-left activists.

E.L.: What makes you so sure?

D'A.: The fact that it was on return from that trip that Feltrinelli mentioned to me for the first time that certain well informed persons had told him that the top leadership of the United States was allegedly contemplating making drastically fascist the entire West and unleashing a third world war. I laughed it off. But he went on bragging among his acquaintances about this supposed discovery.

E.L.: Did Inge share his conviction?

D'A: Certainly not in public. On the contrary, she would invariably pose as an enlightened intellectual intent on contributing to peaceful, democratic, and cultural progress in society through her influence in the publishing world. So on occasion she even had to admit that Feltrinelli was rather too radical and impulsive politically.

E.L.: Allow me to interrupt you briefly at this point. In your book about the Pasternak case you say that Moscow, after DoctorZhivago appeared in Italy, could not resign itself to the idea that fighters for communism would never again get a red cent fromFeltrinelli.

D'A.: Indeed. I would also add that Moscow at some point decided to inveigle Feltrinelli (aware that he was badly complex-ridden, and suffered in particular from infantile megalomania, which made him easy to manipulate) into funding rebel movements that were then flaring up in Third World countries and received Moscow's backing under the Soviets' global strategy.

E.L.: In pursuing these goals, though, Moscow had to find a person who would be able and willing to manipulate Feltrinelli. Thatis to say someone who could not only sell him the idea that only leftist revolutionary movements ready to take up arms oralready having done so were capable of fighting back neo-fascism and prevent a nuclear holocaust. Don't you think perhapsthat?

D'A.: Let us consider the facts. Upon return from their lengthy journey over the United States, Inge persuaded Feltrinelli to thrust her Hamburg friend journalist Heinz Schewe on Pasternak and his partner and muse Olga Ivinskaya, as the German was just at that time leaving for Moscow anyway as a Die Welt correspondent. Schewe, she explained, would be the most reliable channel for the publishing house in discussions with the author of Doctor Zhivago concerning the ways of settling legal and judicial problems that piled up as new editions of the novel appeared in the West, namely, to talk Pasternak into signing a contract more profitable for the publisher in terms of copyright than the original one. Eventually, though, Pasternak would never sign the new contract.

E.L.: Why ever not?

D'A.: For three reasons. Reason one was that signing the new contract would provoke more persecution on the part of the Soviet authorities. Reason two was that the text prepared in Milan implied a fracture with Pasternak's trustee in Paris who, apart from everything else, was to handle his royalties due to the author for all Zhivago editions. Reason three was that the new contract, among other terms Pasternak resented, implied his consent to making the novel into a movie.

E.L.: Pasternak did not want a screen version of his book to be made?

D'A.: Indeed, he did not. He said repeatedly that he feared vulgarization. But let us get back to Schewe. Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya trustingly received the Hamburg journalist; he became a frequent visitor in Olga and her children's home. But his behavior appears inexplicable from the moment when, soon after the writer's demise on 30 May 1960, Olga and her daughter Irina Yemelyanova were arrested, put in the dock and sentenced to long prison terms.The Soviet authorities resorted to these measures in order to 'rehabilitate' the author of Doctor Zhivago -- much too prominent a figure to hand him over as a gift to the enemies of the Soviet Union just like that. They launched a campaign of demonizing Olga as an allegedly rapacious intriguer who, assisted by her daughter, had betrayed and bedeviled Pasternak, a 'simple-hearted but honest Soviet citizen.' To make the campaign of denunciation in the press the more effective it was not to start until the court sentences had been passed.

E.L.: Then the case proceeded for quite a while in camera? When was the cloak of secrecy removed?

D'A.: Some information started seeping through in the Soviet Union and Great Britain from early January, but it was the DailyTelegraph of London that proved the first to tell the world, on 18 January 1961, some details of the tragic fate of the mother and daughter. Now, Schewe was the only Western journalist who, being a frequent visitor to Olga's home until her arrest, knew what had happened. He could have dropped a bombshell, but more importantly, he should have remembered that Pasternak had asked his foreign friends to sound the alarm bells if, as he sensed, Olga were arrested after his death. Yet he did not spread the information in his possession, but merely told it to Feltrinelli in private, and the latter threw it in my face a month later accusing me of being the cause of her arrest and firing me as punishment.

E.L.: But on learning the news you could have also raised the alarm. What prevented you from doing that?

D'A.: Fear that it was all lies.

E.L.: Was it Schewe himself who suggested to him the idea that you were to blame for Olga ' s arrest?

D'A.: I couldn't say. Anyway, on 17 January 1961 Schewe made the same charges against me in his interview to the Corrieredella Sera , a major Italian daily. In a nutshell, according to him, I imprudently gave Olga a thick wad of Soviet banknotes, the police got wind of the fact, hence the arrest and subsequent conviction for currency smuggling. But actually it was all very different. From 1959 on I sent Olga sums of money for Pasternak, already converted into rubles, the kind of sums I could afford, using trusted friends as 'messengers.' I knew that Pasternak needed money badly, as after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1958 he was being hounded, and the Writers Union deprived him of the only sources of income he had.

E.L.: Yes, I remember. Any publications and new editions of his works were banned, including his brilliant translations of greatliterary classics, from Shakespeare to Goethe.

D'A.: That's right. However, in March 1960 Feltrinelli - having forced the aforementioned Paris trustee to give up her function in order to spare Pasternak a scandalous court case threatened from Milan - finally gave me a sum of money in dollars that the writer had asked to be put at my disposal nearly a year previously as a fund for regular remittances to Olga.

The sum was substantial. It was partly the royalties, a lot more hefty than before, that were due to the author for all editions ofDoctor Zhivago that had by then appeared in the West. Pasternak named the sum and entrusted me with handling it, without accounting for my actions to anyone, and asked me to start sending money over as soon as possible. All of that was said in so many words in his statements and letters whose texts were later published in full.

E.L.: And you started straight away to organize the money transfer that Schewe was talking about :

D'A.: Almost at once. The operation was a fairly complicated one and unfortunately I did not manage to get it done till Pasternak's death, convinced, however, that I was acting at his behest. Let me describe in brief the final stage of the undertaking. At the end of July a young married couple my family was quite close with (a doctor from Toscana and his Slovene wife who also knew some Russian) arrived in Moscow as tourists at the wheel of the Beetle Volkswagen with wads of Soviet currency carefully secreted in its innards. The couple put up at a large hotel packed with foreign tourists and was taking a rest after a taxing car journey.

E.L.: Which set off where?

D'A.: In Italy, to be precise in Rome. The married couple went thence northward going via Austria, Berlin and Warsaw. The next day after their arrival in Moscow they went about the city strictly by public transport and staying well clear of phone booths. During their stroll, having received from me a map of the downtown area and precise instructions, they took a taxi and went to the vicinity of the street -- which they then reached on foot -- where Olga's home was and walked past it without stopping. In exactly the same way a couple of days later, they returned to the house in the afternoon and went up to the required apartment without warning. The person who opened the door was Olga herself. They recognized her from my description and handed to her my letter of recommendation (she knew my handwriting well enough), asking her in pantomime whether it was safe to talk. It was. Then they arranged for a second visit the following evening, namely on the first of August, when they would bring over bundles of Soviet banknotes they would remove from the car beforehand and pack in two ordinary travel bags. And that was that they did. This was followed by supper had made for his guests.

E.L.: So, the 'messengers' left, having performed their mission to perfection. Now, when did things start to go wrong?

D'A.: In her memories, A captive of Time (Doubleday, Garden City, New York 1978) Olga gives a detailed account of the events during the fortnight between the messangers' visit and her arrest on 16 August: almost at once Olga informed Schewe, who continued regularly calling on her, that she hed received the money and he was clearly upset at the news crying out, 'Now we [sic!] are done for!'

E.L: Is there a Schewe version of those events?

D'A.: The Corriere della Sera interview, the one I mentioned earlier, where he would brand me as the person responsible for her arrest, Schewe would maintain that the first thing Olga had done, the moment she received the money, was buy her son a motorbike and thus, through her incaution, attracted the attention of secret agents (given that in those days in Moscow motorbikes were few and far between).

E.L.: If the motorbike story were factual, the suspicion of an informer could have been discarded?

D'A.: Oh no, it's rather more than mere suspicion. In the morning of 16 August, as Olga writes in her book A Captive of Time , several agents barged into the apartment of Olga's dressmaker, broke open the suitcase and confiscated the bundles of Soviet banknotes. At the time Olga was not even in Moscow. She was at a dacha not far from the capital, where other agents on the same morning arrested her on the charge of currency smuggling - a laughable accusation, since Olga -- like her daughter who would be arrested some three weeks later -- had never left the Soviet Union, nor had she received any foreign banknotes.

E.L.: And what is Schewe's comment on the fact?

D'A.: Utterly incongruous. I am still referring to his interview with the Corriere della Sera. Far from actually mentioning the invasion of the dressmaker's apartment. He says literally this: under the circumstances, 'the Soviet court simply could not fail to convict her [Olga] and her daughter Irina.' Actually he feigns ignorance about the fact that the court hearings were preceded by several months of grilling at the Lubyanka KGB HQ (where only political oppositionists were taken), and the court hearings as such were hastily held within a single day in total secrecy, without any witnesses for the defense or a chance to appeal. So his allegations a priori contradict the RSFSR Supreme Court Resolution of 2 November 1988 that reviewed the verdict and gave full acquittal to the mother and daughter, 'in view of the absence of a corpus delicti.'

E.L.: One may then conclude that Schewe?

D'A.: As to Schewe, our conclusions will follow a bit later. In March 1961, in an attempt to smother the international uproar over the fate of Olga and her daughter, Alexei Adjubei, chief editor of the daily Izvestia (and Khrushchev's son-in-law) gave a series of press conferences in the UK. In the process he produced a trump he had up his sleeve. A letter in German confiscated by Soviet law enforcement agencies (and subsequently reprinted over and over in the West), which Feltrinelli had sent Olga in the hope of manipulating her the very next day after Pasternak's demise. The publisher asked Olga to send him at the earliest opportunity the new contract on the copyright for Doctor Zhivago and all other confidential papers of the author; he explained that none of those were to get into the 'hands of the authorities or the Pasternak family' on any account, and promised to do what he could to 'avoid paying any third party' or, failing that, to make sure that ' a substantial portion of the proceeds went to her and Irina.'

E.L.: Oh yes, I remember that quite well. In that letter Feltrinelli also mentions Schewe.

D'A.: That's an understatement. Feltrinelli implored Olga to 'trust no one but Schewe,' and if it so happened that 'our mutual friend' should leave Moscow, to trust only those who would produce 'the missing half' and to whom she would show 'the other half ' [enclosed were two halves of an Italian 1000 lire note].

E.L.: That was the cloak-and-dagger touch that Soviet propaganda gave the case. But the letter does not suggest that it wasOlga, who had learned caution from bitter experience, who could have inspired all those inanities .

D'A.: No doubt about that. But I would now like to stress another point. The contents of the letter should have induced the Soviet authorities to consider Schewe the chief accomplice to a very serious crime, and at the very least to instantly deport him as such from the Soviet Union, which is what normally happened to all 'bourgeois' - that is, non-communist -- journalists guilty of far less serious offenses.Yet Schewe remained in the USSR as if nothing were amiss, and would stay on there until 1967, even to find a wife, enjoying the kind of favor that was a sure sign of his services to the KGB.

E.L.: Unquestionable proof, like a smoking gun in a murderer's hand. But Inge remained friends with Schewe, did she not?

D'A.: That Schewe was still among her close associates is a fact. Carlo, the son of Feltrinelli and Inge, recollects in his bookSenior Service (Milan 1999, Russian edition, OGI Publishers, Moscow 2003) that in the mid-1960s his father continued seeing Schewe, if only to understand which was my 'cover' - American or Soviet [that is whether I was on the payroll of the CIA or the KGB]. Obviously, the source of this information was his mother, because the man himself was at the time merely four or five years old. The first-hand account -- although probably not without Inge's knowledge -- was the one about Carlo's visit to Schewe in Germany when the latter had already retired.

E.L.: An exhaustive answer. Now let us get back to Inge's work at the publishing house, to her trips with Feltrinelli.

D'A.: In the late 1950s and early1960s the publishing house saw radical change. Some people, like myself, were dismissed, new staffers were taken on, some already translated and even typeset books were recalled from the printers: However what is more significant is the 'greater international scope' for which Inge unequivocally claims credit, in particular as she accompanied Feltrinelli on his business trips over Third World countries where he took to going since the early 1960s.

E.L.: Were they looking for new books to be translated?

D'A.: In theory they were. But in fact the main outcome of those trips was the Milan publisher's involvement in the revolutionary movement.

E.L.: Could you cite an example?

D'A.: In Africa, which had then been the focus of his attention for some years, they repeatedly visited Algeria, Morocco, Guinea, Nigeria, and Ghana. Feltrinelli, with Inge's assistance, managed to establish personal ties with leaders who had only just appeared on the scene of anti-colonial struggle, from Ben Barka to Sekou Toure. He was especially inspired by the cause of fighting for Algeria's independence; a concrete instance of this was providing asylum in Milan, in the building of his institute, for several French deserters. By courtesy of Ghana's President Kwame Nkrumah he even attended in the summer of 1962 the nuclear disarmament assembly in Accra as a delegate from non-aligned countries. As for his publishing discoveries, African trips yielded only one manuscript on Algeria (and that was found probably in Paris), which he published also in the original with a view to clandestine distribution in France.

E.L.: Indeed, not much to show for his pains.

D'A.: Ah yes, but then in between the African trips in March 1972 Inge gave birth to Carlo. The child is certainly Feltrinelli's son, he is a spitting image of the man, and it hardly matters that the rumors in the circles close to the publisher hint at artificial insemination the couple had to resort to. Anyway, one more fact must be pointed out. The birth of a son - whom the father immediately recognized and named his only heir in his will - will become a crucial point that allowed Inge to keep her influence over Feltrinelli even when, pretty soon, they ceased to live under the same roof and especially after he went underground several years later.

E.L.: And his love of Cuba? When was that born?

D'A.: In January 1964. Inge and Feltrinelli landed in Cuba where they both had been before. Now things were vastly different there: Fidel Castro, the Caribbean brand of socialism, the mirage of a revolutionary explosion throughout Latin America. Inspired by all that, Feltrinelli went to see the Cuban leader on several occasions, won his favor, and actually got a chance to take him on in a game of basketball (Inge, the ex-photographer, made snapshots of that). It should be noted that neither was that trip devoid of publishing interest - they hoped to obtain exclusive rights to the publication of Fidel Castro's memoirs. A pity -- the memoirs are yet to be written, and their author in pectore , despite a generous advance payment, will never write any.

E.L.: Will they continue to turn up on Cuba?

D'A.: Feltrinelli will, often. But without Inge. The reason was a drastic turnabout that presently occurred in the married couple's life. She was caught in a situation of extreme intimacy with a prominent Italian Communist Party journalist, which, frankly, caused more puzzlement than shock. Was it possible that a woman of well-recognized self-control could have behaved so frivolously? Anyway, the result was that Feltrinelli went to live separately, leaving to her the use of his patrician nest, the upbringing of his son, a considerable part of the family fortune to handle as she pleased, and a top job at the publishing house.

E.L.: Rather a lot, isn't it. Presumably a sign that he was still under a strong spell of Inge's personality.

D'A.: He certainly was, and he would remain to be in the future. The new state of affairs did not prevent Inge, who had preserved all her maternal and professional functions, from seeing Feltrinelli whenever she wanted to and from continuing to exert influence on him. On top of that it enabled her to distance herself in a natural manner from trips to Third World countries likely to undermine her carefully constructed image of a progressive but not exactly revolutionary-minded intellectual. Besides, Feltrinelli had already been 'put on course' and continued in the prescribed direction. So much so that in early 1967, during one of his visits to Cuba, he would say in his speech at the Havana Libre College that he had exhausted his role of a European publisher and considered himself a 'mere soldier in the fight against imperialism.'

E.L.: So how was he fighting?

D'A.: He undertook to publish the Italian version of the Tricontinental bimonthly, an organ of the Organization of Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America published in Cuba. He also became an official agent and correspondent of the publication. As a result he also became involved in other wars and liberation movements from the Middle East to Vietnam, from Angola to Uruguay, in short, over a large chunk of the Third World. It was not exactly a personal involvement in military operations, but he went to numerous areas of unrest (while Inge preferred for a change to go on business trips to Paris, London and New York). He met with useful persons there and contributed to their struggle with donations of money and/or deliveries of military materiel. For instance, right after the Six Day War he met with Yasser Arafat and other Fattah leaders, naturally not just to verbally express his respect.

E.L.: He must have had precious little time for the publishing business.

D'A.: Actually, even before his solemn statement at the Havana Libre college, Feltrinelli gradually began handing over to Inge the management of his publishing house. In this connection I would like to digress from the subject of funding rebel movements. This has to do with my personal experiences and testimony...

E.L.: I'm all attention.

D'A.: After Olga was released in november 1964, I proposed an initiative, which I could not be persuaded to drop by the 'gesture of clemency' that had reduced her prison term (and prior to that, that of her daughter). Namely, I proposed to Feltrinelli, through his chief solicitor, that he should found and head the Pasternak Prize. To finance the undertaking I suggested legally using the letter, which Pasternak had written and sent to Feltrinelli through me at the close of my journalistic career in the Soviet Union - the letter where, apart from everything else, the writer gave instructions for half of the royalties due to him for Doctor Zhivago to be given to me by way of recompense.

E.L.: No trifling sum that!

D'A.: An equivalent of quite a few million dollars these days. That was why I printed on that letter, which I had read in Pasternak's presence at his bidding, a large NO opposite the lines concerning myself, explaining to the writer that I would never agree to so disproportionately huge a sum of money out of his royalties that sooner or later he, I hoped, would be able to have at his disposal. Receiving the letter, Feltrinelli showed it to many of his staff and praised me for refusing the money.

E.L.: But your refusal was by no means a legal obstacle to the operation you suggested to Feltrinelli, was it now?

D'A.: It was not, since Pasternak's heirs, 'for reasons of politics and morality' would never be able to claim those 'Judas' pieces of silver.' A resolution to this effect was passed in October 1961 by the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with Mikhail Suslov's signature top of the list. Anyway, Feltrinelli rejected my proposal without any explanation.

E.L.: So you started a suit against the publishing house.

D'A.: Precisely. Given the limited time of our talk, I cannot go over all the stages of the court proceedings (1965-1972), which I paid for during the first few years from the residue of the transfer fund. Besides I have already fulfilled the task in my memoirs, abundantly backing my story with documents; and should anyone wish to personally examine the case materials, they can apply to the State Archives in Rome. Now I'll make a brief summary of the episodes that unequivocally point to a collusion between the publishing house (where Inge was increasingly ruling the roost) and the Soviet authorities throughout the court hearings.

E.L.: Oh yes, do.

D'A.: After a lengthy and unconvincing disputing of the legal force of the said letter by Pasternak, the publishing house, confident that I had not got for myself a copy of the letter (which I had not), presented to the court an earlier letter by the writer of a general nature, with a faked NO added to it, alleging that I had been mistaken in my interpretation of Pasternak's words. Fully aware, however, that the fake would not be effective for long, the publishing house revealed to Moscow my plan of instituting the Pasternak Prize. Moscow was not a little alarmed. It rallied forces.

Shortly afterwards, in May 1966, the CPSU leadership reviewed its resolution of five years previously, agreeing that Pasternak ' s children could claim the portion of royalties from Doctor Zhivago due to them as heirs (and consequently could interfere in the course of my investigation) as a measure 'against a possible use by certain circles in the West for anti-Soviet purposes of large sums belonging to the late writer.'

E.L.: In this occasion the Soviet officialdom disproved its reputation of incapacity.

D'A.: Ms. Oborina told me about the tribulations she had had to endure, which explained in a plausible way the delay in getting the copy of the letter to me. Anyway, I asked her to have the copy certified by a notary. She did so without the slightest hesitation. I submitted the certified copy to court. And the publishing house almost at once instigated proceedings about forgery, having obtained statements by two Soviet doctors made under oath who claimed that Pasternak had been too ill by the date on the letter to dictate and sign it. Oborina got scared and refused to testify in court. I would refute the Soviet medics' statements with fairly authoritative evidence. One piece of evidence was by Valery Tarsis, a prominent Soviet dissident writer forced to emigrate having endured a term in a lunatic asylum on the strength of a false diagnosis imposed by the authorities. And finally, albeit much, much later, the situation cleared up entirely. The so-called Mitrokhin Archive mentions Oborina as an agent of Directorate Two of the KGB. In short, it's all a fake, both the letter and its refutation.

E.L.: But what was the outcome of the forgery case?

D'A.: It never reached a conclusion. First, to start proceedings it was necessary to formally close the current case, which, for reasons I could never understand, took nearly eighteen months. The forgery case started in January 1969. Since that moment the publishing house, whose sole interest was in dragging out the case, did little else but demand that Pasternak's heirs arrive in court. But invariably someone on their behalf -- while they had no inkling of what went on in Milan -- asked for and was granted adjournment of the hearings.

E.L.: Who was named as Pasternak's heirs?

D'A.: At the time, his two sons, Yevgeny and Leonid. However, the two were before long joined by Olga.

E.L.: Incredible.

D'A.: Not at all. Just listen. At the end of 1969 Ivan Yudkin, Soviet consul general in Rome, invited me for a confidential talk. I accepted his invitation. After a brief wait in the reception room, during which my old Moscow acquaintance Lolly Zamoisky -- who would eventually feature in the Mitrokhin Archive as a KGB colonel -- confirmed my identity peering through a slightly open door. Yudkin was most courteous. He said he was terribly sorry that Pasternak's heirs, and especially our dear Olga, would have to testify against me and offered to talk to two Inyurkollegiya (College of International Law Barristers) heads in search of a solution. I could not help observing that with us witnesses testifying in their own favor were not taken very seriously. Anyway, several days later I went to the consulate general, accompanied by two lawyers, where I met with deputy chairman of Inyurkollegiya Andrei Korobov, in Yudkin's presence, and his assistant with the physiognomy of an imposing prison warden.

E.L.: In other words, a watchful eye of the KGB?

D'A.: I couldn't vouch for that. In any case Korobov appealed to me, in most florid and practically friendly terms, to give up Pasternak's royalties, and at one point I asked him a frankly rhetorical question whether in that case those vast sums of money would indeed end up in the hands of the heirs. Answer: they certainly would. The expression of disbelief on my face riled the assistant not a little. In an arrogant tone he demanded that I should not evade the issue. He insisted that by my behavior I implied that I entertained no warm feelings for Olga -- included in the heir list, as it now transpired, merely in order to exert psychological pressure on me. And finally he ejaculated that 'it is to be decided today whether we will part friends or enemies.' I explained to him, quite calmly, that I was facing a serious choice and so needed some time to think it over. Meeting over.

E.L.: I suppose it was the last one.

D'A.: It doubtless was. The whole thing convinced me that the joint maneuvers of Milan and Moscow would not let me see the end of the court hearings in less than a biblical time span -- nor thus endure it financially -- and finally arrive at the finishing line, the Pasternik Prize. The result was that my lawyers, with my consent, informed the publishing house that I was prepared to consider the proposal of amicable settlement on condition that it would recompense all the expenditures, in and ex camera, that I had paid for from my own pocket.

E.L.: And what was the response?

D'A.: The response was nil, and the forgery case continued to drag on unhurriedly in view of the Russian witnesses still failing to appear. However, something pretty unusual occurred outside the courtroom. On 1 March 1970 the publishing house announced in the world's major dailies that an agreement had been concluded with Pasternak's heirs -- his sons Yevgeny and Leonid plus Olga -- who were represented by Korobov, the Inyurkollegiya chairman. Essentially, the publishing house would instantly conduct the necessary fiscal operations to transfer to Pasternak's heirs the required sums of money and would get from them the 'second contract' it had tried so hard and long to obtain. The contract granted the publishing house far greater rights to use Doctor Zhivago, including other than printed reproduction, thus removing most claims from publishers and other entities involved with the novel.

E.L.: A clever move to be sure.

D'A.: Still it should be said that the contracting parties, as say the London Sunday Times noted, ignored the fact that I had instigated the proceedings to claim some of the money and the case was not yet closed. In short, their agreement in legal terms was nonsensical. But there were worse things to come.

E.L.: Another agreement?

D'A.: No, something quite different. On 20 January 1972 a number of the world's major newspapers, from the New York Timesto the Corriere della Sera, reported that a day earlier Pasternak's heirs were to appear as witnesses in court where the forgery case was 'going through the motions' but cabled their request to move the session which was now scheduled for 24 March. Moreover, the heir list now looked different. Olga's name was gone to be replaced by Katia described as the writer's daughter. It would have been nothing to get excited about, but for one small fact - the writer had never had a daughter, so Katia Pasternak was simply a KGB invention.

E.L.: What was the idea?

D'A.: It may be assumed that this Katia, armed with all the necessary documents - obviously forged - could say that she renounced her share of the legacy to be able to act as a witness. In any case we will never know the truth. The tragic death of Feltrinelli on 14 March would cause the session scheduled for ten days later to be called off. More than that. The entire court hearings came to an end as my opponents in Milan had to busy themselves with rather more important publishing and personal affairs - including, among them, settlement of relations with Sibilla Melega, the publisher's last wife, to whom Inge would fork out millions of dollars for giving up further claims. Now the publishing house accepted my proposal of an amicable settlement made in late 1969 - it would have been executed, given the time needed to finish all the formalities, by the end of 1972.

E.L.: As a matter of interest, hasn't it ever occurred to you to reopen the case?

D'A.: Are you kidding? I am going over the entire series of the facts that shed light on the role of Inge in Feltrinelli's life for the sake of the historical truth and for its sake alone. Moreover, I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to declare, to avoid any misunderstanding, that I will never ask for a red cent from that publishing house. Not on any account.

E.L.: Fine. Let ' s get back then to Feltrinelli's activity in the Third World. We left off at his meeting with Arafat.

D'A.: Soon after that meeting the Milan publisher made an utterly unorthodox move. He flew to Bolivia carrying a large sum of money that he had withdrawn from his New York account in the hope of helping Che Guevara in some way as the man was being hunted in the jungle, and also intellectual Régis Debrais who was in custody. He put up at a La Paz hotel where he was joined by his wife, Sibilla Melega, but something he had counted on, possibly getting in contact with someone, did not work. Things could have turned pretty nasty, but fortunately for him and Sibilla it ended in no more than a couple of interrogations and expulsion from the country by air. Anyway, the adventure was followed by an unexpected turn in Feltrinelli's strategic views.

E.L.: What do you mean?

D'A.: I mean that Feltrinelli, on his return from Bolivia, focused at once on the forerunners of ' 68 in Italy - students going on demos at the slightest provocation, seizing university premises, fierce anti-American protests over the start of the war in Vietnam and against the military coup in Greece, skirmishes between right- and left-wing supporters. All of that was enough to convince him that here too revolutionary patterns of developing countries might well work.

E.L.: When did he start to translate his theories into practice?

D'A.: Almost immediately. He began with Sardinia, clearly intending to turn it into a 'Mediterranean Cuba' and primarily relying on separatism and banditry, the two local phenomena that frequently overlapped. He lavished money and materials necessary for subversive activity on them. In this way he made a tangible contribution over a number of years -- including by fighting to create the Sardinia Revolutionary Communist Front - to organizing several major, very serious disturbances, down to sabotaging military maneuvers. Besides, Feltrinelli convinced himself some time in early 1968, when unrest among students and instigators of various sorts intensified and spread throughout the country, that a coup d'etat was being prepared in Italy by the CIA, NATO, and the top elite of major industrial and financial corporations.

E.L.: That, I believe, served as an extra argument in favor of speeding up preparation for revolutionary action.

D'A.: It did indeed. Starting in 1968, and especially in 1969 -- the year of 'red' and 'black' bombings that in many parts of the country aimed at government buildings and state symbols, banks, stock exchanges, industrial exhibitions, railroad stations, trains and high-voltage transmission line supports -- Feltrinelli began and then stepped up the funding of various leftist combat groups. Feltrinelli displayed in the windows of his book shops pamphlets justifying rebel movements throughout the world, and even DIY manuals for making incendiary bombs and firing them from sawn-off shotguns. As a result, intelligence services kept him under surveillance, judicial bodies questioned him and charged him with minor offenses, the police repeatedly requisitioned various items from his shops, and his name featured increasingly in newspapers. Yet politically it was rather more significant that now he was under fire from the country's Communist press as well.

E.L.: And why was this fact politically more significant?

D'A.: For more than a quarter of a century the Italian Communist Party had been seeking a soft rapprochement with the authorities, and so it was resolutely against any initiative, even in the press only, that might hamper its progress from the more leftist positions. How do you think it liked seeing an amateur adventurer like Feltrinelli fund the nascent ultra-left movement of militants? But the Italian Communist Party's 'soft' line had not sprung out of nowhere. It was perfectly consonant with the chosen strategy of Soviet foreign policy. So Feltrinelli's recently reawakened interest in Italian affairs was seen in Moscow as a serious problem.

E.L.: Was he aware of that? Was he reacting in any way?

D'A.: He was openly contemptuous of the Italian Communist Party, accusing the party leaders of 'quackery under the guise of leftist phraseology.' He was also scathing about the Soviet regime, which he frequently equated with state capitalism. At the same time Inge was feigning concern over the dangers he was exposing himself to, and spoke to him of her certainty that the hirelings of neo-fascist terrorism and various secret services were already following hard on his heels, and implored him to go into hiding, leaving Italy for a while at least. In the fall of 1969 he too came to accept that idea - so much so that he often told his close friends that soon his bullet-riddled body would be found in Milan or its environs. In the meantime he was preparing his final withdrawal from the publishing house, merely retaining a nominal role as its head. He carried out a reshuffle which enabled Inge to come on the board of directors and assume the post of vice-president.

E.L.: So she was now a de facto head of the company.

D'A.: Precisely. Feltrinelli's next moves were influenced by events in Milan that unrolled over the last two months of 1969: worker and student demos that grew into armed clashes with many wounded; a strike that culminated in the death of a young policeman from an injury caused by an iron pipe; and finally, the bomb that went off on 12 December in the building of a major bank in the center of the city that claimed eighteen lives and left eighty-eight people injured. Whether true or not, suspicions mounted that Feltrinelli could have been the person behind those acts. As a preventive measure, a judge ordered his traveling passport to be seized, and that very day, helped by a smuggler, he crossed the Swiss border, opting for going underground.

E.L.: Correct me if I'm wrong, but his underground activity was largely quixotic. For it was then, was it not, that Feltrinelli decidedto become an active participant in armed struggle instead of a mere supporter?

D'A.: That's right. He started at once to recruit his own military units under the historic name of GAP (Groups of Partisan Action) that were to be prepared to join the International Proletarian Front the next spring. He decided that for a start -- later he would see -- it would be Italy that would make the chief battlefield, and he would continue to visit the country, still in secret, although the passport seizure order was to be repealed in February. Everything seemed perfectly easy to him, he got ever more presumptuous, he even wrote and published a pamphlet about the post-capitalist society system, whose would-be leader he felt himself to be, even if he did not talk of that openly. On 12 March Inge, who used to visit him frequently, explained to the executive and general directors of the publishing house, who felt sincere affection for Feltrinelli and worried about him, that nothing could be done. 'No one can understand him any more: he's lost,' she would write in her diary. The executive director suggested that to save Feltrinelli they should organize his arrest.

E.L.: Did she object?

D'A.: I believe she simply left it at that. Feltrinelli meanwhile was frantically rushing about Austria, Switzerland and France. Not infrequently, strictly on his organization's business, he came to Italy -- with forged papers, and in most fantastic disguises, his trademark moustache shaved off. Naturally he gave a wide berth to the publishing house. Almost till his dying day he often saw Inge, who normally took their child to him, in various locations of his self-imposed exile. He often saw Sibilla too. To reside closer her husband Sibilla had chosen a yacht moored in Cote d'Azur. From there she used to reach him at a villa of his amid woods in Carinthia or run up to other places where he suddenly happened to go. All this until the spring 1971, when she, fed up with his husband's way of life, started another romance in Rome.

E.L.: Leaving aside the funding of leftist combat groups in Italy and possibly also in other European countries, which concreteactions did Feltrinelli undertake at that final stage of his political adventurism? I mean, what terrorist acts?

D'A.: Those were few and insignificant: broadcasting of Radio GAP with the help of German equipment, obtained through third persons, that occasionally interfered with TV broadcasting in the north of Italy; dynamite explosions without serious consequences in Milan and its environs aimed against construction sites where accidents had been recorded, and against companies backing neo-fascist formations. One of his latest undertakings, the robbing of the St. Vincent casino, never went beyond the planning stage because there was little chance of success. Actually Feltrinelli, increasingly consumed by ambition to become a great theorist and revolutionary leader, was a victim of a tragic game. He wrote incoherent strategic resolutions, bought apartments in Switzerland and Milan to be used as a base for his fighters; he organized exercises with pistols, rifles and hand grenades putting himself and his few supporters through grueling training, hunger, and even eating bad food. Finally, to make himself look like a proper field commander, he took to going without a bath. On one occasion Inge, back from the latest meeting with him, remarked on her shock at seeing him so thin, with yellow teeth.

E.L.: And finally, in March 1972, his tragic game was abruptly cut short.

D'A.: Yes, abruptly and unexpectedly. As was reported in good time, on 13 March the 13 th Congress of the Italian Communist Party was to convene in Milan; it would end on the fifth day with electing Enrico Berlinguer secretary general. Feltrinelli immediately resolved to disrupt the event by plunging the city into a massive blackout. To that end he split his fighters into eight small operational groups (one of which he headed personally). They were to blow up eight high-voltage lines simultaneously in Milan suburbs at considerable distances from one another. The plan was to be executed in the evening of 14 March. But the operation fell through, and not one lattice steel tower got blown up. With the only exception of the group that included himself and two more persons, no one had turned up for the mission.

E.L.: That means that Feltrinelli fell into a skillfully baited trap. He turned out to be a victim of a genuine plot, not merely anaccident.

D'A.: This is beyond all doubt, but he would never know it. He was injured as a charge went off, and died of blood loss under a support tower while his companions disappeared in an old van that had brought them to the site. His dead body would be discovered by local peasants in the afternoon of 15 March, and since he had forged papers on him, investigators would not be able to establish his identity until the morning of 16 March. The investigation that followed was closed for lack of evidence, giving rise to rumors about all manner of people responsible for his death - from neo-fascists and communists to Italian secret services, the KGB or the CIA.

E.L.: Do you know if Inge put forward any surmises?

D'A.: Frankly, I don't. I only know that in the morning of 15 March, that is, on the day following the blast, she went to Lugano together with her son and a notary, explaining to the executive director of the publishing house that Feltrinelli had made an appointment with her in that city for one o'clock to sign a document relating to one of his Italian villas. Several hours later, by nightfall, she was back in Milan. Looking bewildered she told the director in the presence of other persons that Feltrinelli had not turned up for the meeting, adding that unless something truly terrible had happened, he would never have behaved in such a way, especially since it was his chance of seeing his son.

E.L.: It's all very odd.

D'A.: Extremely odd. Was it possible that Feltrinelli, who to the last considered Inge his 'revolutionary comrade,' had concealed from her his plans for the dynamite blast? Could it possibly be that Feltrinelli had arranged to meet her at Lugano for notary matters, within hours of the intended explosion? Or that he would have failed to call off the meeting, if for some unforeseen circumstances the operation had been postponed? Personally I believe that Inge really acted out the Lugano meeting episode in order to be able to prove, should she come under suspicion in the course of investigation, that she was innocent of any knowledge of the prepared explosion and consequently could not be charged with failure to report or complicity.

E.L.: So we are nearing the finale. Now I would like to ask you to conclude our talk with a general assessment of Inge ' s truerole in the life of Feltrinelli, and consequently in the Pasternak case.

D'A.: Until now I have been citing only irrefutable facts. They are covered in well-known publications that characterize with perfect impartiality the protagonists of our story and have never been disproved by them (I am willing, should relevant requests come in, to specify right here the particulars as to the date and place of publication and the page numbers). These facts are confirmed by the acts of my court case, various Soviet archival documents, numerous articles and commentaries in leading newspapers. In light of all this I can confidently state that these facts, given the many obvious coincidences in time and logical connections between them, inevitably raise two serious questions.

E.L.: Such as?

D'A.: First, wasn't it Inge who, directly or indirectly, for ideological reasons or out of mercenary motives, undertook to psychologically manipulate Feltrinelli to persuade him to fund anti-government movements and therefore should share the responsibility, if only moral, for the death of the Milan publisher?

E.L.: And the other question?

D'A.: Wasn't it Inge who, throughout my litigation with the publishing house, coordinated the Milan-Moscow interaction in that entire rigmarole of Soviet spies, forged documents, perjury, and attempts at intimidating me? It was she who in the end prevented the founding of the Pasternak Prize, and while she was at it, also secured a more beneficial contract for the publishing house, which the writer himself would never have signed.

E.L.: Now everything is absolutely clear. Thank you, on behalf of my friends, among others.

D'A.: It is you the thanks are due to.

 

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