Writing in the Shadow of the Monolith

Tales of the Mountains and Steppes

by Aitmatoy Ch.
Moscow: Progress

The White Ship

by Aitmatoy Ch.
Crown

The Ascent of Mount Fuji

by Aitmatoy Ch.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Stikhi (Poems)

by Bella Akhmadulina
Moscow

Selected Poems

by Iosif Brodsky
Harper & Row; Penguin

Chast’rechi (Part of Speech)

by Iosif Brodsky
Ardis

Forbidden Fruit

by Fazil Iskander
Moscow: Progress

Sandro iz Chegema (Sandro from Chegem), Novy Mir

by Fazil Iskander

The Goatibex Constellation

by Fazil Iskander
Ardis

To Be Preserved Forever, in English

by Lev Kopelev
Lippincott in US; Secker & Warburg in Britain

Khranit’ vechno, in Russian

by Lev Kopelev
Ardis

Vremena (Times)

by Naum Korzhavin
Posev

(Three Tales), Novy Zhurnal (The New Review)

by Yury Mamleev

Blondin obeego tsveta (The Blond of Both Colors)

by Vladimir Maramzin
Ardis

Istoriia zhenit’by Ivana Petrovicha (The Story of Ivan Petrovich’s Marriage), Continent

by Vladimir Maramzin
No.2 pp.

Collected Tales (in Russian)

by Vladimir Maramzin
Ullstein Verlag

Seven Days of Creation

by Vladimir Maximov
Knopf

Kalina krasnaia (Red Snowball-Tree)

by Vasily Shukshin
Moscow

Shkola dlia durakov (A School for Fools)

by Sasha Sokolov
Ardis

White Grass

by V. Soloukhin
Moscow: Progress

Prigovor (The Sentence)

by V. Soloukhin
Moscow

Telenok bodalsia s dubom (The Calf Butts the Oak)

by A. Solzhenitsyn
In English: Harper & Row

Lenin v Tsiurikhe (Lenin in Zurich)

by A. Solzhenitsyn
In English: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The GULAG Archipelago Two

by A. Solzhenitsyn
Harper & Row

Dolgoe proshchanie (A Long Goodbye)

by Yury Trifonov
Moscow

The Exchange,” Russian Literature Triquarterly

by Yury Trifonov
No. 5 pp.

Drugaia zhizn’ (“Another Life”)

by Yury Trifonov
Novy Mir, No. 8 pp.

Zhizn’ i neobychainye prikliucheniia soldata Ivana Chonkin (The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin)

by V. Voinovich
In English: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Ivan’kiada (Ivankiada)

by V. Voinovich
Ardis

An Incident in the Metropole,” Continent

by V. Voinovich

Kontinent (Continent) Anchor/Doubleday

published by Ullstein Verlag. Selections in English to be published by

In cases where Russian texts are cited, the Russian is given first with the English in parentheses after. A number of these authors have been published in English in Moscow, by Progress Publishers.

The Russian literary scene is bizarre. The funniest new satirical work by a Soviet writer is Vladimir Voinovich’s story of his own real-life battle to get into a two-room apartment which is coveted by another “writer” (only publication: Taiwan Belongs to China) who wants the extra square meters for a toilet (an American toilet at that) which he purchased while at the UN. The finest novel in the last twenty years (Sokolov’s A School for Fools) is by a Russian born in Ottawa who left Moscow this fall to become a gardener and lumberjack in the Vienna Woods. Solzhenitsyn has written a book about Lenin that his friends say is too autobiographical. The best-selling Soviet poet is a blind man who writes like Rod McKuen. The best Russian-language literary journal is published in Munich; the best Russian poet lives in Ann Arbor; and the first Agatha Christie in Russian has gone on sale in Jerusalem.

Because of this odd literary diaspora, a trip from Petersburg to Moscow provides only part of what one needs to know for a full picture of the current literary scene. But nearly every winter for seven years I have made the journey, and did so again in November 1975. Since these visits began in 1969 the community of Soviet writers has gone through several stages. From 1969 through 1971 there was still hope that things could be improved gradually. Then most people thought that the process of de-Stalinization, while it might have its detours and dead ends, could not be totally reversed—and that every year would see the publication of poetry and prose which couldn’t have appeared the year before. Beginning in 1972, however, particularly after Nixon’s visit and the internal crackdown which accompanied détente, the major topic of discussion in many families was whether to stay or to emigrate. By the end of 1975 many of the literary intellectuals who wanted to emigrate had managed to do so; those who remained had made a conscious decision to stay, either because of principles or for practical reasons.

Things (including editors and censors) are getting tougher. Voinovich and others say that the level of the literary journals is perhaps lower now than under Stalin. The mood of the liberal intelligentsia seems demoralized and apprehensive. In spite of this writers keep writing in the face of bureaucratic meddling and foreign indifference.

Leningrad is a colder, more imperious city than Moscow. Literary trials are more frequent there (just last year Vladimir Maramzin was on his way to the Archipelago—and now, thanks to a humane solution, he is in Paris, working for the new magazine Continent); the sense of community among the writers is much weaker than in Moscow. Leningrad is a city for individualists, like Nabokov …

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Letters

Travel Tip July 15, 1976

The Good Rasputin April 15, 1976