Friday, May 8, 2009

Vladimir Voynovich

Vladimir Voynovich

I tried to post this earlier and the internet ate my post so here is the Encyclopedia Britannic biography of the writer whose style had a very strong contrast to Maxim Gorky [see my Unit 8 blog] besides some of the best modern Russian humor.

Russian author - in full Vladimir Nikolayevich Voynovich
born Sept. 26, 1932, Stalinabad, Tadzhik S.S.R., U.S.S.R. [now Dushanbe, Tajikistan]
Soviet dissident writer known for his irreverent and perceptive satire.
After serving in the Soviet army from 1951 to 1955 and attending the Moscow Pedagogical Institute (1957–59), Voynovich worked as a skilled labourer and then as an editor of radio programs.
He published such well-received fiction as the short story “My zdes zhivyom” (1961; “We Live Here” ) and the novellas Khochu byt chestnym (1963; “I Want to Be Honest”) and Dva tovarishcha (1964; “Two Comrades”), all of which concern pressures to conform to Soviet urban life.
In 1974, after publishing a letter in defense of dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Voynovich was expelled from the Writers’ Union of the U.S.S.R. and was forbidden to work as a professional writer.
In 1980 he settled in West Germany. His Soviet citizenship was revoked in 1981 but was restored in 1990. In the 1980s he was a visiting writer at Princeton University and the University of Southern California.
Voynovich’s best-known work is the acclaimed underground novel Zhizn i neobychaynyye priklyucheniya soldata Ivana Chonkina (1975; The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin), about a naive and unsophisticated man who battles the Soviet bureaucracy. The pseudoepic, autobiographical Ivankiada: ili rasskaz o vselenii pisatelya Voynovicha v novuyu kvartiru (1976; The Ivankiad: The Tale of the Writer Voynovich’s Installation in His New Apartment)details his personal battles with the Soviet bureaucracy to obtain a two-room apartment.
After he emigrated, he continued to write slyly humorous accounts of the vagaries of life under the Soviet system in works such as Pretendent na prestol: novye priklyucheniya soldata Ivana Chonkina (1979; Pretender to the Throne: The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin), Anti Sovetsky Sovetsky Soyuz (1985; The Anti-Soviet Soviet Union), Moskva 2042 (1987; Moscow 2042), and Shapka (1988; The Fur Hat). He also wrote film scripts and plays.
By the late 1960s, however, most of these writers had again been silenced. Solzhenitsyn—who was charged with treason shortly after the publication of the first volume of...
With the death of Stalin in 1953, Russian literature was freed from the most oppressive demands of socialist realism. The two decades after Nikita Khrushchev succeeded Stalin were characterized by a thaw, during which works were published that earlier would have meant prison or worse. Afterward, in the era of Leonid Brezhnev, there was again a hardening of official attitudes. One intriguing masterpiece, 'The Master and Margarita' by Mikhail Bulgakov, was published in the Brezhnev era. It had been written prior to 1940 but was not allowed publication until 1967.

In Dr. Huskey's first year seminar last semester we read The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin and The Ivankiad: The Tale of the Writer Voynovich’s Installation in His New Apartment.
I really enjoyed the latter because it WAS autobiographical and provides a very sad yet realistic portrayal of life in the USSR (plus the constant image of the installation of a blue American toilet being behind Voynovich's rival’s quest for that extra room was just so very unexpected and Monty Python-esque I had to snort with laughter after I read that passage over ten times).

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