Away From Politics: East-European Poetic Resistance in the 20th century

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Institutet för Rysslands- och Eurasienstudier (IRES) Gamla torget 3, 3 floor, IRES Library
  • Website
  • Organiser: Institutet för Rysslands- och Eurasienstudier (IRES)
  • Contact person: Jevgenija Gehsbarga
  • Phone: 018 471 1630
  • Föreläsning

Poets have always had a complicated relationship with politics. This complexity is especially apparent in the fate of 20th century East European poets, such as Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert, Aleksandr Wat, Natalia Gorbanevskaya, Joseph Brodsky, and Tomas Venclova. While their Western counterparts readily embraced acute political causes in the public sphere, poets in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia were propelled in an opposite direction – away from politics. Staying a-political was hard in a totalitarian situation, where poets were systematically co-opted, used for state propaganda, or else censored, exiled, or even murdered.

Thus, East European poets faced impossible dilemmas, but also developed unique strategies of resistance. Their most political act became to write non-political poetry. Unlike their Western counterparts, the East European poets refused to deliberately explore “the realm of breakdown and madness.” They concentrated on their private concerns against the grain of collectivist ideology, which shunned the entire sphere of the inner self. Their poetry preserved the memory of the past and restored the continuity of pre-revolutionary tradition.

Zakhar Ishov is post doctoral researcher at IRES. Zakhar holds two PhD degrees: one in Russian literature (a minor in Italian) from Yale University, for the dissertation “Joseph Brodsky & Italy” and one in English literature and Translation Studies from FU Berlin for his thesis: “Brodsky Translating Brodsky.” His publications range from his own translations, to his analysis of translation practice and theory, to comparative studies, cross-cultural and role of censorship in literature.