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Varlam Shalamov

Varlam Shalamov Jan Kryzhevsky. Portrait of Varlam Shalamov. 1987. Historical and artistic exhibition «Varlam Shalamov - tragic voice of Russia XX century» in Shalamov house (Vologda).
  • Varlam Shalamov
  • Jan Kryzhevsky. Portrait of Varlam Shalamov. 1987.
  • Historical and artistic exhibition «Varlam Shalamov - tragic voice of Russia XX century» in Shalamov house (Vologda).

Varlam Shalamov (1907 – 1982), the Russian writer, was born in Vologda, to the family of Tikhon Shalamov, the priest of St. Sofia Cathedral. He studied in the Vologda grammar school, for two years he worked on a skinnery, in 1926 entered the Moscow state university, the department of the Soviet Law, but in 1928 was excluded «for concealment of the social origin».

During early Moscow period Shalamov was actively engaged both in literary and political activity, participated in student's antiStalin movement. In January, 1929 he was arrested for distribution of the so-called «Lenin's Will» and was sent as «socially dangerous element» to the Vishersky corrective-labor camp in Northern Ural (Berezniki). After being set free in 1932 he lived in Moscow, worked as a journalist in a number of trade-union editions.

On January, 12, 1937 Varlam Shalamov as a former «oppositionist» was again arrested and convicted for «counterrevolutionary trotskybound activity» and was given five years of camps with use on heavy physical works. In 1943 new term – 10 years for anti-soviet propaganda, one of the reasons – he named I. Bunin who was in emigration at that time, «a great Russian classic». In 1956 he was rehabilitated on cases of 1937 and 1943 (on 1929 case he was rehabilitated only in 2000). In 1956 –1982 lived in Moscow.

V.T. Shalamova's basic composition «The Kolyma stories» (about 150 short stories) is devoted mainly to the personally experienced, to the tragical camp theme. Shalamov's Prose organically combines the documentary and art beginning. Thus the writer considered the camp theme fr om deep philosophical positions as an embodiment of crash of humanistic ideas in the XX century, directly comparing Stalinism with the fascism. In «the Kolyma stories» as he wrote, new laws of behaviour of the person in inhuman conditions» are investigated, that is the great value is given not only to sociopolitical; but also to psychological, and cultural - anthropological factors of art judgement. Fr om modern positions his prose is treated as philosophical, existential (close to P. Levi, T. Borovsky, A. Kamju’s works, and in Russian prose he is most closely connected to the F.M. Dostoevsky tradition). During the Soviet period «the Kolyma stories» were not printed because of their «pessimism» and «naturalism».

In 1958 Shalamov was recognized as the invalid. In 1972 was accepted to the Union of writers of the USSR. Having lost his hearing and sight, completely defenseless, Shalamov died in the House of invalids of the Litfront on January, 17, 1982.

A lot of his works, verses, and prose, are connected to the Vologda impressions and memories. The most important in this aspect is his autobiographical story «The Fourth Vologda» (1971). It opens the beginning of the writer's spiritual evolution and contains a set of details (sometimes unique) about the life of the city in the early XX century, and the first years of revolution.

In Vologda the house wh ere Shalamov was born and wh ere his family lived (close to St. Sofia cathedral, nowadays it's Orlov street, 15) has survived. In 1990 the memorial board was opened on the house wall; there was established his museum and now scientific conferences and creative evenings in memory of the writer are carried out.

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