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Written history

Published: February 3, 2006 (Issue # 1142)


An anthology of literature by winners of the independent Andrei Bely Prize was presented to the reading public this week.

A few days before Christmas 1978, about 15 people gathered in the Leningrad apartment of art critic Yury Novikov to inaugurate the newly minted Andrei Bely Literary Prize, which consisted of three items: an apple, a bottle of vodka (first shots for laureates), and three rubles.

This month, Moscow publishing house NLO, Novoye Literaturnoye Obozreniye (New Literary Review), released a major, single-volume anthology with excerpts by all 63 Andrei Bely Prize laureates from 1978-2004.

The publication was celebrated Monday at art-club Platforma, with readings by poetry laureates Arkady Dragomoshchenko (1978), Alexander Gornon (1991) and Mikhail Yeryomin (1998), as well as short speeches by Boris Ostanin, Boris Ivanov, committee members Alexander Skidan and Dmitry Kuzmin, and St. Petersburg University Professor Lyudmila Zubova.

The prizes first three recipients were Viktor Krivulin for poetry, Boris Groys for philosophy/theory, and Dragomoshchenko for prose. All three had been published in the underground literary monthly Chasy (Watches).

Chasy was one of several samizdat magazines which formed an underground literary movement in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Critic and prose writer Ivanov was the magazines first organizer, and its editors included now-well-known writers and critics Ostanin, Novikov, and Dragomoshchenko.

Chasy, as well as such publications as 37, edited by Krivulin and Tatiana Goricheva, and Obvodny Kanal, edited by Kiril Butyrin and Sergei Stratanovsky, aimed to circulate literary production and criticism from what was called the second culture of unofficial art.

But Chasy, unlike the other publications, was not based on a single set of aesthetic or ideological criteria, said Dragomoschenko, whose novel Chinese Sun has recently been published in English by Ugly Duckling Press, and whose collection of essays Dust is forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press. It wanted to represent a varied relief, a literary map of the second culture, and publish writers not just from Leningrad, but from various places in Russia.

Ostanin, who had at that time dreamt of converting his dacha into an art commune, believed strongly in the magazines inclusion of all cultural thought on art, theater, jazz, rock, literature and joined the magazine as an organizer after several issues had been published.

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