I have a vague feeling of guilt which is probably rooted in what is our elemental absence of awareness of law. My friend, the Leningrad writer and historian Mikhail Heifitz, has been in an investigative prison for over a month now. Judging by echoes which have reached us, he has been arrested for the five-volume samizdat edition of the works of Joseph Brodsky and for his essay about Brodsky’s verse. The investigator knows full well that samizdat is not a publishing house; he also knows that Heifitz did not participate in collecting Brodsky’s poetry. Everyone knows that I spent three years collecting this poetry, because Brodsky, like many important masters, generously made gifts of his poems, never keeping them himself. I wanted to collect them in order to preserve for Russian culture all that has been done by this great poet. Those who are now part of the persecution of Brodsky will nevertheless come to be proud of him in their own lifetime. As for me, I took one other step in order to preserve the texts collected with such difficulty—I sent them abroad where the author himself now lives. Perhaps there are people whom this will not please, but I was moved only by a concern for Russian culture.
I am not at all a hero. But my grandfather was not a hero either—a village priest who for some reason did not bend and preferred to die in Solovki in 1931. Probably my father was not a hero either, a worker, a Jew, who went to the front as a volunteer and was killed in 1942 near Leningrad. The time comes when everyone has to do something of his own. All of my manuscripts were confiscated during a search on April 1. It is not for me to judge whether they are good or not, but I am certain that everything we write is not accidental, and the writer has an obligation to his manuscripts. Therefore I collected them again (people had kept them) and sent them abroad. If any publishers or periodicals are interested in my stories or tales, let them know that my agreement to their publication is now totally calculated. And a last thing. The arrested man, Mikhail Heifitz, has two little children without any support. Any help, any kind word is useful to him and his family now. Heifitz’s name is not too well known to the general reader, although he has published two books—an historical study and a novel about the members of the “People’s Will,” not to mention many other publications. It makes no difference if it becomes a law, but a writer’s fame begins at the moment he is put on trial.
Mikhail Rubinovich Heifitz lives in Leningrad. Novorossiiskaya St., House 22, apartment 45. His wife—Raisa Vladimirovna Glagoleva, and his daughters Natasha, 7, and Olya, 5—live at the same address.
July 18, 1974