Voices of Russian Literature: Interviews with Ten Contemporary Writers

By Sally Laird | Go to book overview
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Igor Pomerantsev
(b. 1948)

Igor Pomerantsev was born in Saratov and spent his early childhood in Siberia. When he was 5 his family moved to Chernovtsy in western Ukraine, where he grew up and went to university. After graduating in English, he worked as a teacher and technical translator, moving to Kiev in the early 1970s.

At the time, the Kiev intelligentsia was being decimated by the KGB, and Pomerantsev, though never an open dissident, soon found himself charged with ‘spreading anti-Soviet literature’. Had he been Ukrainian he would almost certainly have been imprisoned for this offence; as a Russian, however, he was given the ‘option’ of exile abroad. In 1978 he left with his wife and infant son for Germany, subsequently moving to Britain, where he worked for several years in the BBC Russian Service. Later he joined Radio Liberty as a producer of cultural programmes, a job that took him first to Munich and then to Prague.

Apart from a handful of poems published in the early 1970s in the Moscow magazine Smena, most of Pomerantsev’s work in the 1970s and 1980s appeared in émigré journals such as Sintaksis (Paris), Vremya i my (New York and Jerusalem), and Kovcheg (Paris). In 1985 a collection of his stories, Aubades and Serenades (Alby i serenady) was published by Russian Roulette in London. English translations of his poems, essays, and prose have appeared in a number of journals, including Stand, the Edinburgh Review, the Times Literary Supplement, Index on Censorship, and the Fiction Magazine, and several of his stories have been broadcast on BBC’s Radio 3.

In the 1990s, however—after an interval of almost twenty years—Pomerantsev’s name has again resurfaced in Russia. Since 1991 his verse and prose have been regularly published in the Moscow magazines Oktyabr′ and Znamya, and since 1993 three collections of his work have appeared in Russia.

Much of Pomerantsev’s work is ‘autobiographical’, in the sense that it draws strongly on scenes and impressions from his own life. But the picture it presents is a


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