A Voice from the Chorus

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Yale University Press, 1995 - Biography & Autobiography - 328 pages
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Andrei Sinyavsky, who writes under the pseudonym of Abram Tertz, has been called by Saul Bellow "one of the most intelligent, most original, and most brilliant of contemporary writers." A noted Russian dissident, he was incarcerated from 1966 to 1971 in Soviet forced labor camps for allowing some of his most satirical writings to be smuggled out of Russia and published in the West. This extraordinary literary work is Sinyavsky's prison memoir. Based on letters to his wife, the diary includes Sinyavsky's meditations on religion, sex, art, literature, and myths - the inner world to which he removed himself to escape from the degradation of prison. Interjected into these thoughts, however, are random snatches of prisoners' conversations - a "chorus" of their tales, legends, songs, and curses that evoke the horror and spiritual desolation of their existence. The result is at once an oblique evocation of prison life, a celebration of literature and art, and a tribute to the endurance of the human spirit.
Originally published in 1976, A Voice from the Chorus is now available with a new preface from the author.

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In the post-Thaw Soviet Union, Andrei Sinyavsky (1925-1997) wrote--and published abroad--stories of amazing wit, with an eye to the fantastic and the grotesque. When he and fellow writer Yuli Daniel (1925-1988) were arrested and put on trial, the letters Sinyavsky sent to his wife, Maria, provided great insights into writing, love, God, and life in the labor camps.
Hayward and FitzLyon treat these letters with grace and dignity, letting Sinyavsky's humor shine through this translation.
I first read A Voice From the Chorus 15 years ago, and I always return to it--a resonant work to this day.

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