Varlam Shalamov

Varlam Shalamov

  • Russia

Varlam Shalamov was a Russian writer and poet. He was born in 1907 in Vologda, to an Orthodox priest and a housewife. In 1922 he went to Moscow and began working there in a factory. He then began studying law at the University of Moscow and joined a Trotskyite group. In 1929, after publishing a leaflet criticizing Stalin, he was accused of subversive activity and sent to two years of hard labor in the Ural Mountains. He returned to Moscow in 1932 and started publishing his literary works and write for newspapers. In 1937, he was again arrested for publicly supporting author Ivan Bunin. He was sent to the camps on the Kolyma River in Siberia for 17 years to hard labor. In 1946, after he deteriorated into a critical condition, he succeeded with a friend’s help in finding the role of a helper in the hospital and thus managed to survive. He was released from the Gulag in the 1950s and allowed to publish some of his poetry. Parts from his main work Kolyma Notebooks began to appear in the underground in the mid-1960s and were also published outside the Soviet Union. In 1970, ill, broken and completely dependent on the Soviet Writers Association, he was made to publish a letter in which he denied his works published abroad. In 1978, his famous book Kolima Tales was published in England – 103 brief sketches, vignettes, and short stories chronicles the degradation and dehumanization of prison-camp life. The stories were banned in the Soviet Union until 1988. Collections of his poetry and prose were published in various languages ​​after his death. 


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