Written by Sergei Dovlatov (Roma Liberov, 2012)

As part of The Future Remains: Revisiting Revolution, Calvert 22 Foundation is pleased to present A poet in Russia is not just a poet, a series of three summer film screenings dedicated to the fate of Russian writers during and after the Revolution with director Roma Liberov.

The second film in the series pieces together the story of one of Russia’s most popular modern writers, Sergei Dovlatov, whose witty novels went unpublished in the USSR during his lifetime.

Written by Sergei Dovlatov

2012, dir. Roma Liberov, 54 min.

Sergei Dovlatov is the most popular contemporary writer in Russia. He was forced to emigrate in 1978 and died in New York in 1990. Not a single one of his books was published in the Soviet Union by the time he died. Now you can find them in every bookstore.

Sharp, funny and sad in the same time, his stories about Leningrad – with its alcoholics, bohemian atmosphere, newspaper offices – didn’t criticize the Soviet regime, but made you laugh at it. Everything he wrote was edited and published in America, his new home where he found some success. He died unexpectedly at the age of 48.

Everything that mattered to Sergei Dovlatov the man was in one way or another written down by Sergei Dovlatov the writer.

From fragments of his work, letters, interviews and editorial columns, this film pieces together his story.

About the series

“Literature in Russia is a serious business. Especially in the 20th century.

The 1917 October Revolution was a ‘big bang’ that continues to be felt today. It was the start of a new era, one which was to devour innumerable victims.

As with many forms of art, literature became a form of propaganda. Only those texts that served the new authorities survived – those that promoted the idea of a new human being, the strengthening of the regime, and the swift establishment of communism.

Under these conditions, intellectuals came to occupy a rather unique position.

Having experienced some early success, Yuri Olesha found himself caught in the epoch’s grip, unable to speak his truth.

Joseph Brodsky was one of the only writers to win the full gamut of honours and awards, including the Nobel Prize. Despite this, he was thrown out of the country, where his wife, son and parents remained.

Georgiy Vladimirov, who published stories about concentration camps during the ‘Thaw’, also emigrated.

Sergey Dovlatov, another émigré, was barely visible in Russia – none of his books were published in Russia during his lifetime.

Ilf and Petrov, on the other hand, birthed a new Soviet language, working as if the Iron Curtain did not exist. But they were ‘lucky’ to die before their books became the subject of contempt.

Osip Mandelstam became unstable in the new epoch, declining into an acute state of illness. His time in a concentration camp destroyed him.

Literature in Russia is serious business.”

– Roma Liberov