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Poetry: Daniil Kharms, Alexander Vvedensky and Nikolay Zabolotsky

The sleeping poets rose and said

right you are, we’re all quite dead

our funeral’s been sung and thus

the yellow grass now covers us.

Alexander Vvedensky, tr. Alice Nakhimovsky

Robert Chandler will read from his translations of Daniil Kharms, Alexander Vvedensky and Nikolay Zabolotsky.

Pushkin Club Programme

In 1928, Zabolotsky and two younger writers, Kharms and Vvedensky, founded the OBERIIU (‘Association of Real Art’), the last avant-garde grouping in the Soviet Union. Their dream was to create not only plays, prose and poetry but also music, painting and film. Soon, however, they fell foul of the authorities, and only a small part of this dream was realized. Accused of belonging to “a group of anti-Soviet children’s writers”, Kharms and Vvedensky both died soon after being arrested, for a second time, in late 1941. Zabolotsky was sent to the Gulag in 1938 but was released in 1944 and able to return to writing.

In her closing statement at the Pussy Riot trial in late 2012 the artist and philosophy student Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said: 'The highbrow and refined pursuits of the OBERIIU poets, their search for thought on the edge of meaning, were realised at the cost of their lives … Participation in the making of history always exacts an unbearable toll on an individual, but it is this participation that harbours the kernel of human existence: to be paupers but to enrich many, to have nothing but to own everything. The dissidents and the poets of OBERIIU are thought to be dead, but they are alive. They are punished, but they do not die.'

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