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Vladimir Maximov

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RUSSIAN DISSIDENT WRITER STRIPPED OF SOVIET CITIZENSHIP

On November 27th the well-known Russian dissident writer of the 1970s and 80s Vladimir Maksimov would have turned 70.
A sad joke illustrates the gloomy atmosphere of those times: “Don’t think. If you think, don’t write. If you think and write, don’t sign. If you think, write and sign – don’t be surprised!” Defying the warning, Maksimov thought, wrote and signed. Says expert in modern Russian literature Professor Vladimir Agenosov: “Maksimov was among those dissidents who formed a democratic opposition to the Soviet regime and whose literary activities accelerated the advent of democracy.

Vladimir Maksimov is a pen-name. His real name was Lev Samsonov. He was born in Moscow into the family of a worker. Three years later his father was arrested and the boy was sent to a children’s home and then to a labor camp for juvenile law-offenders. Later he worked at construction sites and collective farms in various parts of the Soviet Union. The young man knew that the door to higher education was closed to him – his personal particulars made him an unsuitable applicant. But he wrote poems, the first selection of which was published in 1954 and immediately destroyed for ideological reasons. Paradoxically, the incident spurred Maksimov on to prose.

His first novel The Seven Days Of Creation (1971) is a story about a peasant family. Maksimov lynches the Soviet ideology for uprooting respect and responsibility for themselves and for the land they cultivate from the hearts and minds of peasants. The novel was published abroad and brought its author worldwide recognition. One of the critics described it as “profoundly antirevolutionary”.

Maksimov’s second novel, Quarantine, brings us a tale about two lovers who found themselves alone amid a vast plane isolated from the rest of the world due to a cholera epidemic. The novel ends in their rejection of the Soviet way of life. Needless to say that it wasn’t published, but its hand-written or typed copies traveled secretly among the readers. Meanwhile, Maksimov was excluded from the Writers’ Union, a professional association of Soviet writers, and was forced to undergo psychiatric treatment at a mental hospital – a measure frequently applied to dissidents in the Soviet Union.

In 1974 Maksimov emigrated to France. In Paris he founded the Continent – a socio-political magazine with Nobel prize winners, poet Iosif Brodsky and scientist Andrei Sakharov among its editors. In emigration Maximov wrote several books, including the autobiographical two-part novel A Farewell From Nowhere. The first part tells about his childhood and youth, the second contains sketches of Soviet literary life in the 60s-80s.

Paying tribute to Vladimir Maksimov on his 70th birthday, we must thank him for an opportunity to read and discuss his novels, which would’ve been absolutely impossible in former times” .

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