Sergei Dovlatov and His Narrative Masks
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: Northwestern University Press
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This book is a study of the prose of Sergei Dovlatov (1941–90) in the context of the literary process in Russia. His literary career was both extraordinary and, in a perverse way, typical. He grew up in the city of Leningrad, to which he felt a deep affinity, and where he spent most of the first thirty-seven years of his life. He started writing just as the “thaw” period of the early 1960s,
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In the course of preparing this book I made two visits to New York to consult Dovlatov’s family archive. I experienced the utmost kindness from Elena Dovlatova and wish to record my deep gratitude for her help and generosity. I have also received invaluable assistance and advice from Ksana Mechik- Blank, Katia Dovlatova, Andrei Ar’ev, Mikhail Roginsky, Elena ...
Note on the Text
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Abbreviations of Works by Sergei Dovlatov
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1. Dovlatov in Leningrad
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IT IS NO SECRET that in the mid- 1950s, when Khrushchev came to power following the death of Stalin, the Soviet regime controlled every aspect of life in the Soviet Union. The extent of that control is well illustrated by the fact that special permission had to be sought by the minister for agriculture to transmit weather forecasts on radio for a period of five to ...
2. Dovlatov in Emigration
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Why was the mass emigration of the 1970s and ’80s necessary? Soon after this statement Nekrasov himself, a winner of the Stalin Prize in 1947 for his book V okopakh Stalingrada (In the Trenches of Stalingrad) and one of the most popular Soviet authors, was forced to emigrate. Exile has historically been used as a form of punishment, particularly for political opponents of those in power (not just in Russia). Perhaps the ...
3. The Zone
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DATES OF ORIGINAL COMPOSITION have not been established for all the stories comprising Zona: Zapiski nadziratelia (The Zone: A Prison Camp Guard’s Story), but many of them were evidently written between 1965 and 1967 and belong among Dovlatov’s very earliest works.1 One of Dovlatov’s first readers of these stories in the late 1960s was the writer Israel Metter, who was an unofficial mentor of young writers. In the ...
4. The Compromise: Journalism and Fiction
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ARRIVING IN TALLINN in late September 1972, Dovlatov was unable to fi nd a permanent position and worked as a freelance journalist for Molodezh’ Estonii (Youth of Estonia) and Vechernii Tallin (Tallinn Evening News).1 During his first few months in Tallinn he even worked in a boiler room, which was not an unusual situation for members of the artistic ...
5. Dovlatov’s Sanctuary and Pushkin
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DOVLATOV’S NOVEL ZAPOVEDNIK (THE SANCTUARY) is loosely based upon the author’s own experiences during a period spent working in the “Pushkin Hills” (Pushkinskie Gory) Museum at Mikhailovskoe. It was not unusual for members of the Moscow and Leningrad intelligentsia to work as guides at the museum, and when Dovlatov’s life in Estonia became ...
6. The Suitcase and The Fridge
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THE STORIES comprising Chemodan (The Suitcase) were written in the 1980s in New York and published in full there in 1986.1 A preliminary publication, “Rasskazy iz chemodana” (“Tales from a Suitcase”), lacking the story “Kurtka Fernana Lezhe” (“Fernand Léger’s Jacket”), had been published a year before in the periodical Grani no. 137, 1985. The ...
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NASHI (OURS: A RUSSIAN FAMILY ALBUM) is an autobiographical collection of character sketches providing an engaging glimpse of four generations of a Soviet family.1 It consists of twelve chapters written in the early 1980s as separate stories and published separately in various journals. The thirteenth chapter was specially added for the book edition and is ...
8. Tales of �migr� Life
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THE SHORT NOVEL Inostranka (A Foreign Woman) was written in New York in 1985 and published there by Russica in 1986. It has a dedication: “To lonely Russian women in America with love, sadness and hope.” The novel is about Russian émigré life in Forest Hills, New York, where Dovlatov depicts a community of former dissidents, bibliophiles, ...
9. Dovlatov’s Posthumous Reputation
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IN ONE OF HIS LETTERS from the mid- 1980s, Dovlatov wrote to Naum Sagalovsky: Bulgakov’s hero says: “Fame will never come to a man who writes bad poems.” This sentence also works in reverse. Sooner or later everything will work out. Is it not a miracle that Bulgakov and Platonov, who had been among the literary ...
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Page Count: 290
Publication Year: 2009
Series Title: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory
Series Editor Byline: Saul Morson