Kolyma Stories

Kolyma Stories


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Now in its first complete English translation, this masterpiece chronicles life in a Soviet gulag, based on the author’s own years in a USSR prison camp.

Kolyma Stories is a masterpiece of twentieth-century literature, an epic array of short fictional tales reflecting the fifteen years that Varlam Shalamov spent in the Soviet Gulag. This is the first of two volumes (the second to appear in 2019) that together will constitute the first complete English translation of Shalamov’s stories and the only one to be based on the authorized Russian text.

Shalamov spent six years as a slave in the gold mines of Kolyma before finding a less intolerable life as a paramedic in the prison camps. He began writing his account of life in Kolyma after Stalin’s death in 1953. His stories are at once the biography of a rare survivor, a historical record of the Gulag, and a literary work of unparalleled creative power, insight, and conviction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681372143
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 06/12/2018
Pages: 768
Sales rank: 265,337
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Varlam Shalamov (1907–1982) was born in Vologda in western Russia to a Russian Orthodox priest and his wife. After being expelled from law school for his political beliefs, Shalamov worked as a journalist in Moscow. In 1929, he was arrested at an underground printshop and sentenced to three years’ hard labor in the Ural Mountains, where he met his first wife, Galina Gudz. The two returned to Moscow after Shalamov’s release in 1931; they were married in 1934 and had a daughter, Elena, in 1935. Shalamov resumed work as a journalist and writer, publishing his first short story, “The Three Deaths of Doctor Austino,” in 1936. The following year, he was arrested again for counterrevolutionary activities and shipped to the Far Northeast of the Kolyma basin. Over the next fifteen years, he was moved from labor camp to labor camp; imprisoned many times for anti-Soviet propaganda; forced to mine gold and coal; quarantined for typhus; and, finally, assigned to work as a paramedic. Upon his release in 1951, he made his way back to Moscow where he divorced his wife and began writing what would become the Kolyma Stories. He also wrote many volumes of poetry, including Ognivo (Flint, 1961) and Moskovskiye oblaka (Moscow Clouds, 1972). Severely weakened by his years in the camps, in 1979 Shalamov was committed to a decrepit nursing home north of Moscow. Following a heart attack in 1980, he dic- tated his final poems to the poet A. A. Morozov. In 1981, he was awarded the French PEN Club’s Liberty Prize; he died of pneumonia in 1982.

Donald Rayfield is Emeritus Professor of Russian and Georgian at Queen Mary University of London. As well as books and articles on Russian literature (notably A Life of Anton Chekhov), he is the author of many articles on Georgian writers and of a history of Georgian literature. In 2012 he published Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia, which has recently come out in an expanded Russian edition, as have his Life of Chekhov and Stalin and His Hangmen. He was the chief editor of A Comprehensive Georgian-English Dictionary. He has translated several novels, including Hamid Ismailov’s Devils’ Dance from the Uzbek, and Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls (an NYRB Classic).

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Book 1 Kolyma Stories

Trampling the Snow 3

On the Slate 4

At Night 11

Carpenters 14

A Personal Quota 20

The Parcel 23

Rain 28

Pushover 32

Field Rations 37

The Injector 52

The Apostle Paul 54

Berries 60

Tamara the Bitch 63

Cherry Brandy 69

Children's Pictures 75

Condensed Milk 79

Bread 84

The Snake Charmer 92

The Tatar Mullah and Clean Air 99

My First Death 106

Auntie Polia 110

The Necktie 115

The Golden Taiga 122

Vaska Denisov, Pig Rustler 127

Serafim 131

A Day Off 139

Dominoes 143

Hercules 153

Shock Therapy 157

The Dwarf Pine 167

The Red Cross 170

The Lawyers' Conspiracy 179

The Typhus Quarantine 198

Book 2 The Left Bank

The Procurator of Judea 223

Lepers 226

In the Admissions Room 232

The Geologists 236

Bears 242

Princess Gagarina's Necklace 245

Ivan Fiodorovich 254

The Academician 267

The Diamonds Map 276

Unconverted 283

The Highest Praise 291

The Descendant of a Decembrist 306

Poorcoms 319

Magic 333

Lida 337

Aortic Aneurysm 348

A Piece of Flesh 353

My Trial 362

Esperanto 379

Special Order 387

Major Pugachiov's Last Battle 390

The Hospital Chief 404

The Secondhand Book Dealer 411

On Lend-Lease 427

Maxim 435

Book 3 The Spade Artist

A Heart Attack 445

A Funeral Speech 448

How It Began 462

Handwriting 473

The Duck 478

The Businessman 482

Caligula 486

The Spade Artist 489

Rur 502

Bogdanov 509

The Engineer Kiseliov 514

Captain Tolly's Love 524

The Cross 534

Courses: First Things First 542

The First Secret Policeman 587

The Geneticist 597

To the Hospital 605

June 612

May 621

In the Bathhouse 628

Diamond Spring 634

The Green Prosecutor 642

The First Tooth 688

An Echo in the Mountains 695

AKA Berdy 706

Artificial Limbs, Etc. 711

Chasing the Locomotive's Smoke 714

The Train 726

Notes 735

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