Professor unveils book after 40 years of translation

English professor Katherine Kernberger discusses her recently published book, “Marie and her Passions,” on April 4 in the Nicholson Library. Kernberger’s mother began the process of translating Matie Bashkirtseff’s journals 40 years ago. Kernberger took on the job for her mother, and now the product is finally finished.

After 40 years dedicated to tireless translation, readers can indulge in the book “The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff.” It was recently published by English professor Katherine Kernberger who discussed its contents April 4 in the Nicholson Library.

Kernberger’s mother spent nearly 20 years translating and editing the work of Marie Bashkirtseff, which was written mostly in French. Unfortunately, her mother passed away before she could finish.

Kernberger took charge of her mother’s project in 1991 and has finally completed it after an additional 20 years of perseverance.

Bashkirtseff was born into a wealthy family in the Ukraine in 1858. She was famous for painting, sculpting and keeping a diary throughout her fleeting life. She developed tuberculosis and perished just before she turned 26.

Bashkirtseff began keeping a journal when she was 14. In her book, Kernberger features only a fragment of Bashkirtseff’s complete diary that encompasses 106 notebooks.

Kernberger named her book after the countless passions that Bashkirtseff pursued.

“She wants so be remembered by several generations,” Kernberger said. “And she sets out to make her mark on the world in several ways.”

Kernberger said that Bashkirtseff believed she would succeed at all things she tried.

“Ambition. The dominant trait of my character is ambition. For which I would sacrifice all,” Bashkirtseff wrote.

Kernberger said that Bashkirtseff’s confident self-conception was supported by those around her. She was constantly admired by her family and members of her community.

“I am completely in love with myself,” Bashkirtseff  said.

Even though Bashkirtseff was privileged, she found it difficult to receive an education, especially one equal to the type offered to men.

“Marie sets out to get her own education. Hiring and firing, on occasion her governesses and tutors, Kernberger said.

“Working to learn languages thoroughly enough to speak, read and write well in French, Italian and English, along with her native Russian. And studying history, physics, chemistry, things not normally within the interests of young women.”

Bashkirtseff was infuriated by the oppression of women during her era. She longed for equality among men and women.

Kernberger said that Bashkirtseff often wasted her time on thoughtless activities. She fixated on shopping and having luxurious clothing.

“The preoccupation she wastes most time with, however, seems to be her endless list of crushes and flirtations,” Kernberger said.

She liked to pursue scandalous men, and seemed to lose interest in any man who began to show interest in her.

Bashkirtseff often felt alone in the world because no one understood her intelligence.

Bashkirtseff aspired to be an opera singer above all things. However, symptoms of her illness began to develop, and she lost her voice for more than a year.

So Bashkirtseff looked toward a career as an artist.

“I must devote myself to painting,” Bashkirtseff wrote. “Because it creates an imperishable work.”

Bashkirtseff and her family moved to Paris where she attended an arts school called Académie Julian. She created an extraordinary amount of art during her short time in Paris.

Her most famous work includes a portrait of Paris children called “The Meeting” and a portrait of her fellow art students working named “In the Studio.”

She passed away in 1891 when she was 25.

It took great ambition to finish translating Bashkirtseff’s own ambitions.  And the Kernberger family will forever be recognized for such devotion to Bashkirtseff and her work.

Carrie Skuzeski/Culture editor

Carrie Skuzeski can be reached at