Varlam Shalamov


Varlam Shalamov

The son of an orthodox priest, Varlam Shalamov was born in Vologda in northern Russia in 1907. In 1924, he went to Moscow to study “Soviet Law.” In 1929, he was sentenced to incarceration in the Urals for “counterrevolutionary agitation.” In 1931, he returned to Moscow, where he was arrested a second time in 1937. He was then deported to Kolyma in Siberia, the world’s pole of cold.

Shalamov began writing his Kolyma Tales in secret in 1954. After being rehabilitated in 1956 of the 1937 charges, he was allowed to return to Moscow. He finished writing Kolyma Tales in the early 1970s and smuggled the manuscript out of Russia to West Germany. His stories were published in translation in Germany and France in 1971. Shalamov died in 1981 in a psychiatric clinic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was posthumously rehabilitated from the charges of 1929.

The writer Varlam Shalamov considered his exposition of the inhuman Gulag system to be a testimony of strength. He, the son of a Russian priest, spoke with the pride of having remained uncompromising in the face of all tribulations. “Every story of mine,” he wrote a friend in 1971, “is a slap in the face of Stalinism, and like any slap in the face, it has laws of a purely muscular character.”

Über die Kolyma. Erinnerungen.
Wischera. Antiroman.
Beide: Aus dem Russischen von Gabriele Leupold. Herausgegeben von Franziska Thun-Hohenstein. Matthes & Seitz 2018


28th Leukerbad International Literary Festival: 6.21.–23.2024