The Life of Zabolotsky
by Nikita Zabolotsky
This is a biography of the poet Nikolay Zabolotsky, written by his son, illustrated with examples of his work and telling in detail the story of his arrest during Stalin's terror, eight years of prison and exile, and stubborn survival. Since his death, Nikolay Zabolotsky has come to be recognized as a writer of international importance, on a par with Pasternak of Mandelshtam: but compared with them he has been little studied or translated, and until recently aspects of both his life and his work remained mysterious. During the experimental period of Russian art in the 1920s he was a member of the Oberiu movement which this biography documents. In 1938, though uninterested in politics, he was arrested and remained in prison and exile until 1946, after which (with much difficulty) he resumed writing. The whole episode is not only a moving and exemplary human story, but also a notable case study in the effects of Stalin's terror. It makes use of the testimony of family and friends, as well as of material from KGB archives, only recently made available. It also constitutes an introduction to a Zabolotsky's body of poetry. The book contains, as appendices, Zabolotsky's own "The Story of My Imprisonment" and the hitherto secret text of the writer Lesyuchevsky's denunciation of Zabolotsky to the secret police. There is also an anthology of Zabolotsky poems in English translation by Daniel Weissbort and Robin Milner-Gulland and biographical notes on a host of literary figures from the 1920s onwards. The volume is illustrated with a number of early photographs.