Pushkin Club: an Evening with Vladimir Maramzin: 'The Fame Bearer'

A rare chance to meet Vladimir Maramzin, one of the best Russian writers today. He will talk about his life and work and present “The Fame Bearer” the first volume of his new trilogy “The Country Called Emigration”. The book brings together real people (Joseph Brodsky, Vladimir Maksimov, Andrey Sinyavsky, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Oleg Tselkov, and others) and fictitious characters, who represent archetypes of the Russian emigration from the 1960s to the beginning of the 21st century. Maramzin describes their integration into the Western life, their relations with the new Russia, their road to fame or conscious refusal to pursue it.

Maramzin occupies a unique place among contemporary Russian writers. He was born in 1934 and started writing in the 1950s, joining a lively group of young Leningraders encouraged by the relatively free atmosphere of Khrushchev’s “thaw”. Even in those “liberal” times, there was nothing in his prose that could make it acceptable to the Soviet authorities – its style was fresh, ironic, paradoxical, its content as far removed as possible from the stereotypes of socialist realism. He clearly had the makings of an important writer. Joseph Brodsky said in 1974: “I consider Vladimir Maramzin the most outstanding Russian prose writer of the post-war generation.”

Obviously, Maramzin could not make his living by his prose – instead he worked as an engineer at a factory and wrote film scripts and books for children.  In love with literature, he distributed copies of the works of forbidden writers, in particular, Andrey Platonov and Vladimir Nabokov, among his friends. His own prose was published in samizdat , in particular in the collection “City-Dwellers” (Gorozhane) – this was the name of a literary group, which included Boris Vakhtin, Igor Efimov and others.

In 1974 at the age of 40, he was arrested for compiling a 5-volume samizdat edition of Brodsky’s poetry. The charge was later changed for “writing anti-Soviet prose”. After spending a year in prison Maramzin was given a suspended sentence and just like Brodsky two years before him was sent into exile. 

Vladimir Maramzin has spent the subsequent 40 years of his life in Paris, where he has contributed to the magazine Kontinent, edited (together with Alexey Khvostenko) the literary magazine Ekho, which has published Platonov’s Juvenile Sea and a bibliography of his works, and written his own short and long stories. His work has been translated into English, French and German. Among English translations are: Don’t Steal! and Get Away from the Scene of the Accident (Russian Literature Triquarterly, Number 5, Winter 1973, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis); The Story of the Marriage of Ivan Petrovich (Anchor Books, Anchor Press/Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1976 and André Deutsch, London); The Two-Toned Blond and Other Stories (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis, 1984).

Between 1981 and 2003 no new works of Maramzin appeared. Only in the last decade has he returned to publishing his works, and amazingly –  his prose is still as fresh and original as when he started to write. His recent books include: “The Son of the Fatherland” (2003); the collection of essays (2007) and “The Fame-Bearer” (2013) all published by “Echo” in Paris.

Maramzin considers himself a political exile. Since his departure from the Soviet Union in 1975 he has never been back and has been reluctant to publish even his major works in Russia. Several short stories and a couple of essays, including those on Leskov and Nabokov, have appeared there since Gorbachev’s perestroika.

 

This is a Pushkin Club event and all are welcome. In Russian.