Remembering Alexei Kondratiev
Since his passing we have met dozens of his friends, each and every one from various disciplines and communities, each wonderfully enlightened in their own way from Alexei.
However, in the short 5 months since Alexei's passing there been one person that we wished we had more time to learn from, and that was Alexei's partner Len Rosenberg.
This past Friday, October 14th 2010, Len passed away from complications of pneumonia probably related his battle with colon cancer. Shortly after Alexei passed away we had various occasions to chat about Tolkien with Len. These chats, fewer than we had hoped, consisted of a range of topics that influenced Tolkien. In particular, Norse literature, which Len was extremely fond, having been well versed Runelore and the culture of the Norse people.
In his early college days Len Rosenberg was a part of the original New York Tolkien Society, founded by Richard "Dick" Plotz, for which our society today has been based. Even before having met Alexei, Len was one of the first members of the New York Tolkien Society, as well as one of the early members of both The Tolkien Society of America and The Mythopoeic Society.
Len's love of Tolkien and his work is not only evidenced by his particularly large archive of Tolkien journals from 1968-1973 and his participation in local New York Tolkien communities, but his command and knowledge of Tolkien's works and the surrounding criticism.
In 1973 Len wrote a paper for his college English course entitled:
"FRODO LIVES!"...OR DOES HE?
(Click the title for a .pdf Google Doc version of the paper)
Since acquiring this paper from Len, only a few short weeks ago, it was our intent to publish it for him within his lifetime. We deeply regret him not seeing this come to pass.
The paper, complete with his A-/B+ mark and professor notations, states: "Although the reception of Tolkien's works by the critics has been varied, they have gained their popularity because they appeal to the sentiments of American youth." The paper itself may be seen as a time capsule of criticism and discussion, localized to the available criticism and debate of 1973, but is a brilliant contrast of various criticism of Tolkien's epic The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). Len speaks of Louis Halle, who cites LotR as "a true history." In speaking of one of Tolkien's greatest detractors, Edmund Wilson, Len states the "ever acidic... Wilson... known by many four letter words to various Tolkienans."
In the short 5 months we knew Len we also found he had quite the witty whip of criticism, on numerous topics, which was demonstrated throughout his paper. I particularly found Len's keen humor a self-aware stab at his own criticism of Tolkien when he cited that Tolkien's appendix to the LotR "could take over for an intestine...."
Like Alexei, in Len we have lost a great storehouse of knowledge. Len could recite from memory many songs, poems, pieces of literature and bits of scholarship. Similar to Alexei, Len was very learned in numerous disciplines, his love for Tolkien was but one of dozens.
In his honor, we post this paper. It is our hope that the original which we currently possess, might, along with the bulk of Len's archive of Tolkien journals, be dontated to Wheaton College. A few of Len's journals will be donated to Marquette University's Tolkien collection. It is our hope from these donations, arranged a few weeks prior to his passing, that future generations of Tolkien scholars will learn from this material.
Aiya Len Rosenberg! Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo!
To Read more of the Life of Len Rosenberg, Click here to read an article by The Wild Hunt