“The only Russian writer whose works will be read all the way through”—that’s what Joseph Brodsky called Sergei Dovlatov. This prophecy has proved true (at least, one work at a time) for some of us here at the Review. To read Dovlatov is to love him, whether he’s telling stories of his Armenian-Russo-Jewish family, rediscovering the 1960s in the contents of an old suitcase, or relating the misadventures of an alcoholic docent at a Pushkin museum. He writes short, he writes sad, he writes funny. Dovlatov was born in 1941 and grew up in Leningrad. Although he could not get published at home, his early creative work found an audience in the West after friends helped smuggle it out of the USSR. Facing a campaign of harassment by the KGB, the writer emigrated to Queens in 1978, where he wrote books, stories, and journalism. He died in 1990.
Tomorrow there will be a celebration of Dovlatov’s work at the Frants Gallery in Soho, with readings by Lara Vapnyar and Barry Yourgrau (whose essay on Dovlatov, “The Troubadour of Honed Banality” appeared on the Daily). The night will mark the opening of an exhibition of Dovlatov illustrations by Alexander Florensky. For details on the event, see the Frants Gallery Web site.
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