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Robert Chandler and Sara Jolly on the late Igor Golomstock’s memoir, A RANSOMED DISSIDENT


Robert Chandler and Sara Jolly will speak about the late Igor Golomstock’s memoir,  A RANSOMED DISSIDENT,

about to be published, in Sara’s translation, by I.B. Tauris.

Igor Golomstock was born in 1929.  Aged ten, he accompanied his mother to the vast network of labour camps in the Russian Far East; she was to work there as a medical assistant. Igor was minded by assorted 'trusty' prisoners - hardened criminals - and returned to Moscow an almost feral adolescent, fluent in obscene prison jargon but intellectually ignorant. Despite this dubious start he became a leading art historian and co-author of the first, deeply controversial, monograph on Picasso published in the Soviet Union.

His writings, shortlisted for the Russian Booker Prize, offer rare insights into the post-Stalin dissident and émigré communities. Golomstock shows the difficulties of life as a 'subversive art historian' - publishing, curating and talking about Western art in Soviet Russia - and, with self-deprecating humour, the absurd tragicomedy of life for the Moscow intelligentsia during Khruschev's thaw and the Brezhnev era. His memoirs of life once in the UK offer an insider's view of the BBC Russian Service and a penetrating analysis of the notorious 'dissidents' feud' between Andrey Sinyavsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

"Igor Golomstock was a talented critic of Russian and Western art and he had an extraordinary biography, from childhood in Kolyma to dissident years in Moscow, followed by emigration to Britain. He writes about all this like a Solzhenitsyn character come to life, and the result is gripping, sad and often very funny. A must for anyone who wants to understand Russia and Russian culture.”   (Catriona Kelly, Professor of Russian, University of Oxford and author of St Petersburg: Shadows of the Past)

"Golomstock recounts his life in three separate communities: the Moscow art world of the 1960s, the human rights movement and the post-1970s emigre milieu of London, Paris and Munich. He is an observer with strong but discriminating opinions; seldom have the personalities who inhabited these worlds - and who in many cases hated each other - been so vividly portrayed. An essential study for those who wish to understand the cultural and political conflicts of the late Soviet Union and the Russian emigration." (Geoffrey Hosking, Emeritus Professor of Russian History, University College London and author of Russia and the Russians: From Earliest Times to the Present)

"'A Ransomed Dissident is Igor Golomstock's most personal book and a perfect companion to his encyclopedic study TOTALITARIAN ART(2011). In the past, some critics have argued that the term 'Totalitarian Art' was too vague. Following Golomstock's dramatic journey through the circles of the Soviet totalitarian art and culture, however, readers of A RANSOMED DISSIDENT will see how the supposedly vague term acquired a very real existential meaning.”' (Vladimir Paperny, Adjunct Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, UCLA)


Sara Jolly is a literary translator. She has also worked as a freelance documentary filmmaker and edited two episodes of the BBC’s prize-winning series about perestroika, The Second Russian Revolution and Sally Potter’s documentary about women in Soviet cinema, I’m a Horse, I’m an Ox





Robert Chandler is a literary translator.  He knew Igor Golomstock for well over 40 years. He has compiled three anthologies for Penguin Classics: of Russian short stories, of Russian magic tales and, most recently, (with Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski), The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry. His co-translations of two volumes of memoirs and stories by Teffi were published in May 2016.  His short biography of Alexander Pushkin was republished by Pushkin Press in 2017.  His translations have won prizes in both the UK and the USA.  He is currently working on a translation of Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad, a novel that can be seen as the first half of Life and Fate.

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