Das Leben schreiben. Warlam Schalamow: Biographie und Poetik
Franziska Thun-Hohenstein, Das Leben schreiben. Warlam Schalamow: Biographie und Poetik, Cover, Matthes & Seitz Verlag
The poet and author Varlam Shalamov (1907–1982) is considered one of the great voices of 20th century Russian literature. He lived during a time when Russian and Soviet history was shaped by disruptions and terror, surviving 17 years of imprisonment and forced labor at the Gulag. In her book Das Leben schreiben. Warlam Schalamow: Biographie und Poetik [Writing Life. Varlam Shalamov: Biography and Poetics], published by Matthes & Seitz, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein describes how he found the vital strength to withstand his time in writing: “One must find a literary equivalent for the day experienced, then one can go on living.”
In her biography, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein, editor of the German edition of Shalamovs works, traces the life and work of a man who, until his death, was forced to lead an ongoing battle to preserve his independence, a man whose main corpus of works, the six cycles of the Kolyma Stories on the fate of people imprisoned in the Gulag, could only be published posthumously. In a conversation with Stefan Willer (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), she speaks about the challenges of finding a form of biographical presentation that would do justice to the fragmented character of Shalamov’s life and work. How does one write a biography when the personal archive from the time before the Gulag has been destroyed, when other sources are missing and when most available information stems from Shalamov’s own autobiographical memories? How does one reflect Shalamov’s concern with his own self-image?