A Ransomed Dissident: A Life in Art Under the Soviets
In 1939, a ten-year-old Igor Golomstock accompanied his mother, a medical doctor, to the vast network of labour camps in the Russian Far East. While she tended patients, he was minded by assorted 'trusty' prisoners - hardened criminals - and returned to Moscow an almost feral adolescent, fluent in obscene prison jargon but intellectually ignorant. Despite this dubious start he became a leading art historian and co-author (with his close friend Andrey Sinyavsky) of the first, deeply controversial, monograph on Picasso published in the Soviet Union.His writings on his 43 years in the Soviet Union offer a rare insight into life as a quietly subversive art historian and the post-Stalin dissident community. In vivid prose Golomstock shows the difficulties of publishing, curating and talking about Western art in Soviet Russia and, with self-deprecating humour, the absurd tragicomedy of life for the Moscow intelligentsia during Khruschev's thaw and Brezhnev's stagnation. He also offers a unique personal perspective on the 1966 trial of Sinyavsky and Yuri Daniel, widely considered the end of Khruschev's liberalism and the spark that ignited the Soviet dissident movement. In 1972 he was given 'permission' to leave the Soviet Union, but only after paying a 'ransom' of more than 25 years' salary, nominally intended to reimburse the state for his education. A remarkable collection of artists, scholars and intellectuals in Russia and the West, including Roland Penrose, came together to help him pay this astronomical sum. His memoirs of life once in the UK offer an insider's view of the BBC Russian Service and a penetrating analysis of the notorious feud between Sinyavsky and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Nominated for the Russian Booker Prize on its publication in Russian in 2014, The Ransomed Dissident opens a window onto the life of a remarkable man: a dissident of uncompromising moral integrity and with an outstanding gift for friendship.
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About the Author
Igor Golomstock (1929 - 2017) was a distinguished Russian art historian. He spent 12 years working as researcher and curator at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and published books on Cézanne, Picasso, Hieronymus Bosch and the art of ancient Mexico, as well as the seminal study of 'totalitarian art'. His translations of Darkness at Noon and Animal Farm circulated widely in samizdat among the Moscow intelligentsia in the late 1950s. After emigrating to the UK, Golomstock taught at the universities of St Andrews, Essex and Oxford, and worked for the BBC Russian Service and Radio Liberty.Sara Jolly is a literary translator. She has also worked as a freelance documentary filmmaker and edited two episodes of the BBC's prize-winning series about perestroika, The Second Russian Revolution and Sally Potter's documentary about women in Soviet cinema, I'm a Horse, I'm an Ox. Boris Dralyuk is a literary translator and the Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the translator, most recently, of Isaac Babel's Red Cavalry and Odessa Stories and Mikhail Zoshchenko's Sentimental Tales.
Golomstock recounts in lively style his life in three separate communities: the Moscow art world of the 1960s, the human rights movement and the post-1970s emigre milieu of London, Paris and Munich. He is an observer with strong but discriminating opinions; seldom have the personalities who inhabited these worlds - and who in many cases hated each other - been so vividly portrayed. This is an essential study for those who wish to understand the cultural and political conflicts of the late Soviet Union and the Russian emigration.--Geoffrey Hosking, Emeritus Professor of Russian History, University College London and author of Russia and the Russians: From Earliest Times to the Present
Important reading for anyone with an interest in the history and politics of Russian art.--Vladimir Paperny, Adjunct Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, UCLA