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. His translations from Russian include many works by Vasily Grossman and Andrey Platonov. He has also compiled three anthologies for Penguin Classics: of Russian short stories, of Russian magic tales and (together with Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski) of Russian Poetry. He is a co-translator of three volumes of memoirs and stories by Teffi and the author of a short biography of Alexander Pushkin. His translation of Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad will be published in June 2019. His translations have won prizes in both the UK and the USA and his own poems have appeared in the TLS and elsewhere. Teaching is increasingly important to him, and he runs a monthly translation workshop at Pushkin House.
Available from our Book Shop:
In 1939, a ten-year-old Igor Golomstock accompanied his mother, a medical doctor, to the vast network of labour camps in the Russian Far East. While she tended patients, he 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 (with his close friend Andrey Sinyavsky) of the first, deeply controversial, monograph on Picasso published in the Soviet Union. His writings on his 43 years in the Soviet Union offer a rare insight into life as a quietly subversive art historian and the post-Stalin dissident community. In vivid prose Golomstock shows the difficulties of 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 Brezhnev's stagnation. He also offers a unique personal perspective on the 1966 trial of Sinyavsky and Yuri Daniel, widely considered the end of Khruschev's liberalism and the spark that ignited the Soviet dissident movement. In 1972 he was given `permission' to leave the Soviet Union, but only after paying a `ransom' of more than 25 years' salary, nominally intended to reimburse the state for his education. A remarkable collection of artists, scholars and intellectuals in Russia and the West, including Roland Penrose, came together to help him pay this astronomical sum. 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 feud between Sinyavsky and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Nominated for the Russian Booker Prize on its publication in Russian in 2014, The Ransomed Dissident opens a window onto the life of a remarkable man: a dissident of uncompromising moral integrity and with an outstanding gift for friendship.
Translated by Sara Jolly and Boris Dralyuk
Afterword by Robert Chandler