Complete correspondence with Maria Rozanova from Dubrovlag, 1966-1971
Perhaps the greatest irony of Andrei Siniavskii's career is that he wrote his most controversial book Strolls with Pushkin while he was imprisoned in Dubrovlag, a Soviet labor camp in the Mordovia region of Russia. In an interview with Catherine Nepomnyashchy in 1990, Siniavskii explained how he wrote the novel by sending excerpts in letters to his wife Mariya Rozanova, while also remaining under constant surveillance by the authorities. There was a restriction on the frequency of letters (only two per month), but the authorities were far less concerned with length. Siniavskii wrote twenty-page letters in tiny but very neat handwriting, making sure to avoid topics that were sure to grab the attention of the censors, chief among them criticism of the Soviet government and complaints about life in the camps. Siniavskii added an additional layer to avoid the detection of his novel, talking about Aleksandr Pushkin under the guise of sharing what looked to be random thoughts, but were already a thoroughly conceived book. His wife Mariya caught onto this method and separated out all these passages from his letters and collected them in one place. Once Siniavskii was released in 1971, the novel was finished.
Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6010 USA
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Terts, Abram, Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, and Slava Yastremski. Strolls with Pushkin. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.Nepomnyashchy, Catherine T. "An Interview with Andrei Sinyavsky." Formations 6, no. 1 (Spring 1991).