Rethinking the Writer's Duty: Varlam Shalamov's Kolyma Tales and the Russian Intelligentsia in the Gulag
- Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 19, Number 1, January 2021
- pp. 77-100
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This paper explores Varlam Shalamov's representation of the fate of the Russian intelligentsia in the Gulag, his framing and reframing his idea of the writer's duty. In Kolyma Tales, Shalamov not only bears witness to the Russian intelligentsia in the camps, but also establishes a dynamic relationship of common identity between the author and those about whom he writes. This relationship restores the erased identities of intelligenty and sheds light on Shalamov's understanding of the writer's duty to give voice to their otherwise lost experiences. Instead of declaring the Gulag the site of the death of the Russian intelligentsia in the 20th century, the Soviet camp experience becomes for Shalamov an opportunity to bring nuance to the multidimensional heritage of the intelligentsia and to affirm his belief in the immortality of the intelligentsia as an idea.