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Obituary: Igor de Rachewiltz (1929–2016)

Igor de Rachewiltz, April 11, 1929 – July 30, 2016, of Italy, born in Rome to a family with Longobard and Tatar ancestry, started his academic career with law, yet soon switched to Oriental studies (Naples, Italy) and earned his PhD in Australia (Australian National University, Canberra) in 1961. His subject at that time nominally was Chinese history, but his perception of the subject was much broader and shifted to Mongolia. If, in any conceivable case, there were an idea of something like a last word in science, then his acclaimed translation of “The Secret History of the Mongols” (published over 14 years from 1971 to 1985, and finally published in one piece 2004) deserves this merit.

Being an occasional contributor to the PIAC, he enjoyed the command of a renaissance mind enlightened and honed by a unique combination of Western and Oriental civilizations; thus he was able to combine fields seemingly widely apart into one treatise, like the title of his paper of 1985 “Dante’s Aleppe: A Tartar Word in Tartarus?” demonstrates. He was awarded the Indiana University Prize for Altaic Studies in 2004.

Those who had the priviledge to meet him praise his charming and warm-hearted personality. He never really could hide his youthful curiosity and humour, making conversations with him a lasting memory.


Oliver Corff, August 19th, 2016.